My nephew Fisher recently visited us in Connecticut on his way from Maine to his home in South Carolina. It was wonderful to see him and get caught up with all the things going on in his life, changes in jobs and career goals and family in general. His visit, and the upcoming traditional Thanksgiving gathering got me thinking of family.
In my book, Tractor Mac Family Reunion, I tried to tackle what it means to be a family and address some of the confusion over the types of families that kids can have. In the book, Tractor Mac meets Iron Dave, a large steam locomotive modeled after the famous ‘Hudson’ 4-6-2 engines built from 1927-1938. (Ok, for your train-geek kids, 4-6-2 means the wheel arrangements on the engine: 4 leading wheels on 2 axles, 6 powered coupled wheels on 3 axles, and 2 trailing wheels. If you really want to impress your child with your train knowledge, you can discuss the purpose of the ‘sand dome’ on the end page diagram of the book. Hint: look where the sand pipe extends out in front of the trains’ drive wheels. That’ll give you some ‘traction’ in your bedtime conversation). Iron Dave, incidentally, is named for our good friend and minister who married us and who is also, in fact, a real-live train conductor on a vintage steam train. Iron Dave tries to explain to Tractor Mac that the cars that he pulls are a family. When Tractor Mac sees flatcars pulling red tractors from the factory to the dealership, he believes that the tractors are his family. The tractors, along with Sibley the horse and his nephew, Spartan, have to convince Mac that the tractors at the show-yard are all waiting for a farm family just like the one Mac already has found.
There are many definitions of the word family, from the nuclear family, to extended and blended family. I hope my take-away in this book resonates with those trying to define what it means to be part of a family. To me, family are the ones that love, trust, care about and look after each other. You love them and they love you back. The phrase ‘kith and kin’ means friends and relations, which in my mind equals family.
A couple of other notes about the book: I tried to showcase the many different varieties and uses of tractors in the day. High crop, orchard tractors, demonstrators, etc. Indeed, members of the same family come in all shapes, colors, ages and sizes. The dealership in the book is named A.M. Price. My great-grandfather on my mother’s side, Arthur Price, owned an International Harvester tractor and car dealership in Stroudsburg, PA in the 40’s and 50’s. His wife, who in my family is called “Dr. Nina”, was a physician for 55 years in Monroe County, PA back in the days when few women entered that profession. I always wondered what they would think of me, four generations later, writing and drawing family story-time books about the same red tractors he sold to farm families that she probably visited as a country doctor.