A Little Happier: The Things That Go Wrong Often Make the Best Memories—Like My Daughter’s Tough Train Trip

One of my favorite aphorisms is: “The things that go wrong often make the best memories.”

I was reminded of this aphorism recently, when I was in the gorgeous new Moynihan train station in New York City to take an Amtrak train from New York City to New Haven.

As I rode the escalator down to the train tracks, to board the train, I was reminded of a very memorable visit to Amtrak, from years ago.

It was the end of my daughter Eliza’s winter break, so she was going to take the train back to college. Because the weather had turned frigid, she was taking a lot of heavy winter clothes back with her, so she had two huge suitcases.

Because she had so much to manage, I took a taxi with her from home to the train station, to help out. As we waited, she wanted some coffee, so I held her cartoonishly oversized puffy coat while she went to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Just as she was coming back, the track for her train was announced, so everyone waiting in the station started surging toward the escalator to get down to the train. Eliza raced to get in line with her two huge bags. I gave her a quick last kiss and hurried away.

As soon as I was out of doors, however, I realized—I was still holding her giant coat! And it was about 10 degrees outside! I rushed back in, and somehow managed to push my way down to the platform, and waving my way through all the people milling about, I raced back and forth until I spotted her. “Here’s your coat!” I yelled as I pushed it to her. “Wow, thanks!” she said, looking astonished. She hadn’t realized that I still had her coat.

I heard the train’s warning bell start to ring, so I headed back upstairs. Phew.

Back in the present day, as I waited for my train to New Haven, I texted Eliza a photo of the train station and wrote, “Every time I take Amtrak I think of the time I almost forgot to give you your coat! And you had those two giant bags! Did you also have coffee or am I making that up.” I’d begun to doubt my memory. Had she really tried to carry a cup of coffee while dealing with those two bags, or had I embellished the story in my mind?

She wrote back “yes of course I had coffee!! It was a disaster” then she added “and a mistake I manage to keep repeating”

I remembered this incident so clearly – the unwieldy bags, the cup of hot coffee that was suddenly in the way, the weight of the coat, my anxiety that I wouldn’t find Eliza in time…it had been kind of horrible at the moment, but I love thinking back on that morning. If it hadn’t been so stressful, I would have no memory of that morning with Eliza at all.

The things that go wrong often make the best memories.




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