For on December 3rd we were taking a ride on The Polar Express.
Our destination? The North Pole, by way of the Mt. Hood Railroad, departing from Hood River, Oregon. It's a very scenic route. Lots of trees. Very little snow.
Sydney and Clover were beside themselves with joy, racing alongside the train, staring up in wonder at the conductor as he called out "Tickets, please! Tickets!" Oh my stars and snowflakes, it was everything these little 4-year-old cousins had dreamed of.
If you aren't familiar with the book or the movie, well then, you are missing out (particularly if you haven't read the book...it's a classic). Fortunately, Sydney is not only familiar with the book (and even possesses her own autographed copy), she knows the movie (which she can only watch with someone sitting next to her because it's a bit scary) and the soundtrack. It's no coincidence that she wears a blue robe, just like the boy in the movie.
The train ride perfectly combined all three as the songs from the soundtrack played over the sound system, as the story was read, as the conductor came by to punch tickets, and as the attendants wearing big white chef's caps passed out cookies and hot chocolate.
As the train raced along the mountain, little eyes peered on out into the darkness looking for wolves and signs of Santa. They might have been looking for wolves because I told them they were there. There might have been a bit of panic until I reassured them that there weren't really any wolves. Just rocks. Very, very friendly rocks.
And those who weren't looking outside were cuddling up with Grandma-Great, whose lap was definitely preferred over Santa's. Good thing Santa is secure in his jolliness or he might get a complex from all the babies who see him and scream.
Neither Jules nor Toby were particularly interested in sitting on Santa's lap, but Sydney and Clover did, both telling him that they wanted "a spinny dress" for Christmas, both giving him a hug. And with a wink and a nod, he wished them a very merry Christmas and gave them each their own silver bell. Even the littlest girls got bells, which Jules enjoyed very much. Not once did she hit anyone with that bell. Seriously. She treasures it.
Two hours after the train set out, we returned from the North Pole, our cameras filled with pictures and our arms filled with children who couldn't stop talking about the trip. After a stop at the North Oak Brasserie for a delicious dinner, we made our way back down I-84, humming Christmas carols as we drove.
And as we drove, little girls dreamed of elves and bells and hot chocolate and cookies, wondering if perhaps high above them Santa was disappearing into the cold, dark polar sky. Magic.