Tyler (foreground) and Bryce with their latest Magformers creation. (Photo by Kristen Trainor)

Bryce’s new favorite word is “literay,” as in “I literay stayed up all night on Christmas Eve” or “He was literay eating junk food all night.” The latter was not, I think, a reference to Santa though it could have been, since milk and cookies around the world doesn’t exactly qualify as healthy eating.

My grandboys are wordsmiths. 

“All work and no play is a crummy way to spend your day” is their current motto. They claim they made it up. I have my doubts. Then again, it doesn’t show up on Google.

“It’s not a skyscraper. It’s a spacescraper,” Bryce says with his trademark hyperbole. We have two hours before swim lessons at the local pool, so they’re building towers with magnetic geometric shapes (Magformers) with style and flair.

“If we actually build this when we’re older, we’re going to be rich,” says Bryce, who has shown a growing interest lately in wealth.

As we pass turreted McMansions on the way to the pool, he notes that they look like castles and theorizes, “Maybe they want people to think they have as much money as kings.” Maybe the fairy-tale school of architecture should hire Tyler and Bryce to design their homes. It would be an improvement.

Twins at play have an advantage: bouncing ideas off one another. But they are also at a significant disadvantage when cooperation turns into conflict (bouncing buildings off each other) — see Bible, Tower of Babel story — which frequently leads to … Collapse!

“It’s like Jenga,” Bryce says. “We’re used to our buildings falling apart.” Except when the other one causes it, accidentally on purpose. Mirth gives way to sabotage outrage, which leads to apologies of varying sincerity or, too often, resorting to the nuclear option.

Here’s a partial transcript:

“Is mine cool?” (Tyler)

“That looks as good as mine did already!” (Bryce)

“Here’s one more triangle piece.” (Tyler)

“Thank you. That’s what I needed.” (Bryce)

“If we put that on top, millions of people will come.” (Tyler)

“Ever hear of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?” (me)

“I thought it was the Leaning Tower of Pizza.” (Bryce)

Collapse!

“You threw a building at me!” (Bryce) 

It’s true. Tyler bounces it off Bryce’s chest and the pieces scatter all over the kitchen floor, leading to retaliation.

“Bryce is a Boopie, Poopie, Kadoopie,” Tyler declaims.

“Papa Ken, put in your newspaper that Tyler is the worst person on Earth!”

And so it goes — friends to enemies to frenemies. They continuously violate each other’s airspace and territoriality. Their interactions resemble a microcosm of the evolution of Homo Sapiens. How they, and we, survive is anyone’s guess.

But there are more important things to attend to. Today is Train Day — Train Day with the Trainors. First comes lunch at Two Toots, the railroad-themed restaurant in Glen Ellyn, sitting hard by the Metra tracks with close-up views of these passing behemoths. From there, it’s a short walk to the Metra station, where the 11:56 to Oak Park is due shortly. 

When it rumbles in, the boys climb to the upper deck, which is high enough to make Tyler wary that the swaying train might tip over. The three of us squeeze into a double seat and watch the passing terrain. The smooth ride and lofty perspective feels like flight as we pass town after town, station after station — Lombard, Villa Park, Elmhurst, Berkeley, Melrose Park, Maywood, River Forest, and finally Oak Park.

We discuss what’s true and what isn’t. Speaking of famous trains, Tyler mentions the Polar Express, which Bryce finds preposterous. 

“You think everything is true,” he says. “The Polar Express isn’t real.”

Tyler is aghast. “You mean you don’t believe in Santa?”

“Yeah, of course, but the Polar Express is made up. Like Paw Patrol. They’re just people dressed up as animals.”

Extending the day’s railroad theme, we visit a friend in Oak Park who has an extensive Brio train set which the boys set up in her living room, while we offer our consulting services and then begin making plans to create a holiday train scene this December, using our friend’s Christmas village with a base of cottony snow.

But on Train Day time rules and soon we’re putting away the Brio set so we can make the 2:56 Metra heading back to Glen Ellyn.

As we prepare to leave, I notice Tyler sitting in a child’s rocking chair by the fireplace. The chair is for younger kids, but he still fits. He’s looking toward the living room windows and seems quite relaxed and content. Actually, he looks pensive, something you don’t see much in a 7-year-old. He is positively radiant, in fact, against the living room wall — a perfect profile, like something you might see in a painting, “Whistler’s Grandson.” I wish I had a camera, but I’ll have to settle for the imprint in my mind. It is beautiful, memorable. And I’d love to know what he was thinking about.

Of course, it doesn’t last long. As soon as he becomes aware we are looking at him, self-consciousness spoils the moment, but it is the highlight of a day filled with fine moments, including sitting in Cold Stone Creamery on Marion Street, eating watermelon sorbet in waffle cones as we await our train’s arrival. 

Do you know that old saying, which I just made up? “All work and no sorbet is a crummy way to spend the day.”

You can literay quote me on that.  

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