Yesterday we left the house at about 1:30 and drove 2.5 hours to ride the Polar Express. I was equal parts excited and nervous. I have wanted to do this with the kids for years. It is one of my most favorite Yuletime stories. The movie is OK too but they added stuff that isn't in the book and my big worry was what if the ride was more like the movie than the book? Yeah, people are starving around the world and i am obcessing over which version of a childrens story will be used! :-) But it was AMAZING!
I confess that we paid a fairly obscene amount of money for premier seating. This meant that we didn't wait in line as long as other people. It also meant that when we waited we waited inside instead of out in the cold where the temps were something like -7 with the wind chill. Since I have a cruddy cold, this was a good thing as well. When we boarded we were escorted to a dining car because we were not travelling coach. This was good because Chet, my autistic eldest son has space issues and there would have been problems with him feeling crowded or crowding others in coach. However sitting at tables worked perfectly. The youngest children could and did draw while we waited. The only down side was that our family is so large we took a full table of 4 and part of another table. This meant that me and whichever child sat with me (KC part of the time, Lissa part of the time) sat with strangers. I don't really mind that. I always look at such things as an opportunity to make new friends. These 2 folk were pretty dour for people riding a holiday train but by the end of the journey we had a reasonable acquaintenanceship going. Kirsty said that they probably wiped their brows when they debarked and said that they couldn't wait to be quit of Pollyanna! I don't really think I am Pollyanna but I was determined to enjoy every facet of this experience.
I am told the hot chocolate served was delicous as were the chocolate candies with white insides as bright as new snow. I am allergic to chocolate so I rely on the yums from the rest of the family. The ride was just long enough and in the darkness of the mountains it was truly magical. The waiters were dressed just like the characters in the book, white coats and chefs hats as they served us all with just the right amount of solemnity and cheerfulness.
Arriving at the North Pole we followed a slightly snowy path lit by the cheerful elves. Inside we got to sit right down front (again thanks to the premier seating). In this case, the youngest kids were those who benefited the most as they could see really well. We were literally at the foot of the action. My heart was in my mouth when we went in as there was a giant projector. Again I wondered would they be showing the movie. But no, they had an actor read the story and the projecter showed each page on the screen so that they beautiful illustrations could be seen by everyone. KC watched in awe when Santa appeared. His mouth was a perfect "O" just like you see in picture books. Lissa danced while the elves sang Jingle Bells. Rob watched with a sparkle in his eye; he can't decide if at 12 he is too "cool" for this or not. Chet enjoyed it all. The upside to his autism (and trust me I look for every upside because there are so many challenges to daily life) is that there is a childlike purity in the way he enjoys things. He really enjoyed it as much as everyone else did and that is a huge emotional gift to me.
After the story we made our way back to the train. We received scarves to remember our journey by and bells just like in the story. We were on our way home by quarter of 7 p.m. eating boxed suppers that I had packed for everyone. We made it back home by 9:30 which was not bad at all. I would have loved to have had the luxury of staying overnight at the condo we had rented but it takes the kids one night to settle into a place. I knew we wouldn't sleep well in new digs for only one night. Better to drive home and settle into familiar beds with familiar sounds and scents around us. So that is what we did.
But I will remember this trip. It was special and so imbued with the magic and joy that I try so hard to give our children. We all need magic for without it the world is a cold and frightening place without it.
I wish I knew how to drop the pictures in more sequentially in the post, but this is the first time I managed to post pictures at all, so in that respect, I am doing pretty well!