Friday, January 8, 2010

All aboard the Polar Express

As we were waiting — all six of us — to board the Polar Express in Branson, I realized we had bitten off more than we could chew.
It was freezing temperatures, and we were outside with four tired kids on a platform crammed to bursting with other tired and cold passengers. Everybody was impatient. All the kids were hysterical with excitement. My arms were numb from trying to hold and wrangle Masen, who had had enough and was throwing the biggest tantrum of his almost 2-year-old life.
I decided, amid the mayhem, that I was done. I wanted to leave. Walk away and never come back. Our holiday intentions had blown up into our faces and we were left with an impossible mess of tears, snot and grumpy bystanders. Merry Christmas was what we intended. Bah, humbug, was how I felt.
And then Rylan had to go the bathroom.
All we could do was laugh as Matt, Bella and Rylan made the trek through throngs of people back to take care of a situation that typical toddler boys wait to the last minute to take care of.
But we survived, and an eternity later, we heard the conductor boom “All aboard!!!” — which had no magical effect on us because it was drowned out by the agonizing screams of our youngest son.
Soon we were settled into our seats, and the Polar Express story was being read over the speakers. The kids mellowed a bit after their bellies were full of hot cocoa and cookies.
Lights dazzled the outside darkness, making for an interesting ride for the pajama-clad little folks.
Excitement built again when the train made a stop at the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus and we waved at the elves, who were busy building toys and dancing to Christmas music.
Santa came by and gave each kid a sleigh bell, and the conductor made a stop to punch the kids’ first initials into their tickets.
And as Christmas carols blasted on the train speakers and I could barely hear the music over my kids’ joyous voices, I realized it was all worth it.
Despite our stress and discomfort, the children found the spirit of what the trip was intended to be. They laughed, they sang, they ate, and they smiled.
I could almost hear the memories being made and burned into their little brains. They won’t remember the cold and unbearable wait to board the train. Their memories will be filled with Christmas music, hot chocolate and Santa Claus.
Thankfully, the Christmas magic that used to live in Matt and me as children burns hot in our kids. And it’s contagious. Who could resist smiling when you’re sitting next to a child whose happy face is covered in cookie, hot cocoa and dried snot? You can’t.
I found out this last weekend I have to sit back, enjoy the train ride of life and realize that life is what you make it, and my life is good.
Merry Christmas to you all! God bless.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

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