The World We Love, the Trains We Hop // Baraboo family photographer

The summer between fifth and sixth grade, my grandma took me on a train trip from North Dakota to Seattle to visit my uncles and aunts who live there. Just me, my grandma and a pack of Uno cards, sleeping in our seats, staking out a place in the window-walled observation car as we chugged across the bleak expanses of Montana and into the Rocky Mountains. It was magical.

Last month my family took the train from Wisconsin to North Dakota and back. There is still something so romantic and nostalgic about trains — much more so than traversing the same route in our SUV. We slept in our seats, woke up the next morning with bed head and staked out our place in the observation car as we chugged across the plains of Minnesota. It was magical.

On the train, I slept in my husband’s arms and our daughter slept in mine, the rocking and creaking of the cars somehow soothing us all. My 8-year-old curled up in my lap the next morning and let me kiss him on his sweet-soft cheeks without wriggling away like he does at home. My 10-year-old let me take his photo, for the first time in a long time, because he was giddy with adventure (and a little cranked up by all the sweets I was allowing).

My best family memories are the ones where the five of us have an adventure together: The road trip we took to Florida last year, the train trip this winter.

The busy-ness of our lives is suspended for a few blessed days. The challenges and new experiences and chances to grow that we meet, we meet together. And we’re bonded by that. And every time one of us thinks about it, the subject of the story is our whole family, all of us together, and we say, “Remember when we…”