Zooming into Christmas, there is so much to appreciate. Mostly, I am giggly that I still get to hang out here!
For example, this is me and the boys in December 2007.
I had recently recovered from surgery and sepsis (whew). Our traditional plans to spend Christmas with my family in Pittsburgh were blown out of the water – we had to stay in town while I continued chemotherapy. Not much of a decorator under the best of circumstances, our holiday decorations were pitiful and I didn’t have presents to put under the tree.
It didn’t feel much like Christmas. We wanted something to make the holiday memorable in a happy way.
Friends told us about the Polar Express train ride in New Hampshire, where families board a train and get to wear pajamas for the ride, drink hot cocoa and eat chocolate with centers as white as snow. They disembark at the “North Pole,” where they are greeted by elves who walk them to a hut where the little boy who is now a man reads the book The Polar Express, telling his story. Santa makes an appearance, walking among the crowd, eventually selecting a little boy to pick the first gift of Christmas. That little boy asks for a bell from the reindeers’ harness, and asks for one for everyone. Then everyone boards the train for home, singing Christmas carols all the way.
We ordered tickets right away. My husband had to work so Dory-the-babysitter packed up the car, the boys and me and plowed for hours through a snowstorm, catching the train just before it departed. The photo shows me with the boys inside the hut at the North Pole, roughly six hours after I finished my first chemo session.
Every year, big-hearted friends from our church arrange a Polar Express weekend trip and, every year since 2008, we have been lucky enough to be invited to join their family. They are like a roving party, and my kids look forward our yearly Polar Express experience as much as they look forward to Christmas itself.
This is us, this year on the train:
I look back and remember that first time on the Polar Express, not sure what we could look forward to but knowing that we could have a good time that night. I am simply gleeful that I get to do it all again!
We needed help from Dory to make it through that first weekend, and continue to rely on help from others, to various degrees and in various ways.
Thank you for being part of all that, for helping us to make wonderful memories, to be together as a family, to be with friends and to experience joy and love.
Blessings during this season and always,