One step, one breath at a time

I attended my writing group via Zoom yesterday for the first time since my Bob died. Actually I hadn’t attended while he was so sick in the hospital either. It was hard to show my pain publicly.  Even participating yesterday was a challenge, though I ended up writing something.

Our prompt was to pick a child’s toy, make it your title, and then write about it. Here’s mine:

Lionel Trains

When my husband was a boy his father bought him and his brother a set of Lionel electric trains. They were popular in those days – the forties and fifties – before the miniature electric trains became the go-to train toys for little boys.

He’d tell us that every Christmas his father would set them up on the floor of their apartment. Three engines, passenger cars, box cars, and of course the red caboose all moved along enough track to go around their living room. They also had railroad crossing gates, little benches, houses, trees and doll-like people to sit round and watch the trains go by.

When our boys were little, we asked grandfather Frank to send the trains to us and he gladly obliged though by that time he had sold two of the three engines because he needed the money.

They were a novelty for a while. Bob and the boys set them up in our family room at least one time that I can remember. And then we packed them away, waiting to bring them out the following year. But we never did. Finally, whenever we saw the boxes and boxes of them in our garage cabinet, we always said, why don’t we try to sell them? We never did that either.

They are still there in the cabinet among the hordes of things Bob and I accumulated during our fifty-year marriage. And whenever I think about what’s in the garage, the closets in the house, the kitchen cabinets, the furniture drawers, the bookshelves, and hanging on the walls I cringe. There are too many things to think about. Too many things to sell or giveaway or throwaway. Really right now I have to just let it all be and deal with them one step at a time, one breath at a time.


One of my office walls



  1. Bob Zwissler says

    Nice piece Madeline. I am so sorry for your loss. Bob was a great mentor and I was always honored and excited to work with him. The things we keep around us are both a comfort and a burden. I’m never quite sure about getting rid of them although I know that most will hit the landfill when we’re gone. So many of the things we keep are really little containers of memories. The trains are a great example of that. Be safe.

  2. Madeline Sharples says

    Thanks so much Bob. Yes, we all have our memories around us and like you say, until we’re gone. All best to you and Gretchen.

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