Yesterday, a cousin who lives an hour's drive away visited. Although I hadn't seen him since I was a child, he had the same features, only fuller.

Over slices of pizza we discussed the family, politics and religion. I told him I had only learned the short version of what had to be spoken at my Bar Mitzvah. "I refused to learn any Hebrew," he replied. "I just followed the sight centers in the occipital lobe through a complex pathway. After light hits the retina, ganglion cells' axons that make up the optic nerve transmit the information to the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus. The axons then move to the occipital lobe where it enters the primary visual cortex. At this stage the brain interprets what the rabbi told me to say."

Then I recalled the night my parents and I returned from visiting his parents, with two cartons filled with boxes of Lionel trains: heavy black engine, flatcars, cattle cars, caboose, straight tracks, curved tracks, switching tracks, and the mysterious Transformer. Hearing this, he threw up his hands and moaned, "Those were my trains! I wondered what happened to them."


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