I have come to develop strong opinions regarding Thomas the Train. In fact, I can discourse extensively on many aspects of the economic and geopolitical situation . . . of Sodor.
Which has come as quite a surprise to me. There was a time I couldn’t tell Thomas the Train from a teapot. Both had boilers. Both huffed and chuffed. One produced (at least on one occasion, if you remember that episode) fish. The other, tea. I generally preferred the tea.
But that by-gone era of Thomas-The-Tank-Engine-Ignorance was long ago. These days I am in possession of extensive, detailed, and minute knowledge of Thomas, Percy, Gordon and all the ever-proliferating Sodor gang. So complete is my catalogue of Thomas ephemera, so deep my familiarity with all things Sodor, that with a mere glance I can identify by name most every train (or truck, crane, even sail boat) from Sir Topham Hatt’s island empire. I can even tell the difference between the tricky ones. If you need Bash distinguished from Dash, I’m your man.
Impressive, I know, but still, I mostly consider the vast storehouse of Thomas trivia that I’ve stockpiled over the years to be wasted brain capacity. Though it does come in handy when I find myself embroiled in deep conversation about the doings of Thomas and all his Really Useful friends—which actually happens with surprisingly frequency in my house.
But aside from keeping up my end of the conversation, all the Thomas minutia is mostly just a big ball of mental clutter—with one shining exception. There is one particular episode of Thomas the Train—my favorite episode—that I loved the first time I saw it and which has brought me continuing joy ever since. Whenever I need a little pick-me-up, I recall that episode and it helps restore my inner tranquility and put a smile to my face. It is an episode that, for me, represents a dream—a dream of the things that once were, and, hopefully, will one day be again.
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It is the episode of Mr. Perkins.
Poor Mr. Perkins. He gets no respect. He doesn’t even have his own action figure. But despite his obscurity, good old neglected and forgotten Mr. Perkins will always be my favorite.
And all for that one glorious episode when Mr. Perkins does something amazing and marvelous . . . he goes to sleep. All by himself. In a quiet little cabin (actually the Engine Driver’s Common Room), reclining undisturbed and peaceful on a cot while reading books and listening to the sounds of the night.
Ahh . . . my boiler bubbles with excitement even now just to contemplate it.
I was sweeping the floor the first time I put that DVD on, and ended up stopping mid-sweep, leaning on the broom and gazing in wistful longing at the unperturbed wonder of it. That was the day the broom went silent, stilled in salute to the alluring call of peace and quiet. It was just luxurious, so enchanting.
If you’ve never seen the movie in question, Mr. Perkins serves as a narrator introducing the different Thomas stories on the DVD. He comes into the Engine Drivers Common Room and there receives a telephone call from Sir Topham Hatt asking him to take a special-special first thing the next morning. To ensure that he won’t be late, Mr. Perkins decides to spend the night in the Engine Driver’s Common Room, sleeping on a cot.
And there he passes a peaceful evening, a quiet evening, laying on his cot, reading, listening to the rhythmic sounds of a faraway train and the hoot of an owl. And then he goes to sleep.
All without any interruptions!
I have four kids, currently aged 2 to 7. My world has lots of interruptions. My kids are active, energetic, and convinced that they don’t need to sleep. Ever.
But as I tell them, even if they aren’t tired, I am.
So I every night I tuck them in and then commence the rounds of fetching cups of water, getting that one last snack (“Dad, I’m hungry!”), helping someone go to the bathroom just one more time, telling just one more story, looking for that misplaced stuffed antelope we absolutely must have to go to sleep . . . and I count my blessings.
There is a season to each thing. And each season will fly by in the blink of an eye, never to return again. So I want to embrace the joys of this season while it’s here and I can. I don’t want to lose today dreaming about tomorrow. But while counting my blessings and searching for errant antelope, sometimes it’s also nice to think of Mr. Perkins and remember that what is now will not always be. There will be other seasons!
Copyright 2017 Jake Frost
About the Author
Jake Frost is an attorney, husband, and father of four grade-school aged kids. He’s the author of six books: a Catholic fantasy novel, The Light of Caliburn; Catholic Dad: (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; Catholic Dad 2: More (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; From Dust to Stars: Poems by Jake Frost; Victory! Poems by Jake Frost; and a children’s book he also illustrated called The Happy Jar.