The entire ordeal leading to this holiday event began as a small disaster for me. I booked two tickets for my hero and myself to ride the Journey to the North Pole train from Lincoln NH to a very special place in the great woods of somewhere…
Only one ticket of two was issued, the other was canceled due to the event having been sold out. As the parent of a special needs, critically ill and disabled little boy…I panicked all night with closed eyes until the morning possibilities became apparent. Having only one ticket in my possession was absolutely useless when it came to dream-making for a child who has endured more operations than most people might consider being humanly possible.
My 13-year-old is simple, he enjoys music, the train, and seeing the other children around him. Very basic needs, but so important to a dad who knows the unfortunate reality. One of which, only two people on the planet know…his mom and me. In our world, time is the essence and time is fleeting. It certainly takes on a very stark meaning compared to those who most might reflect upon it.
Missing a second ticket for planned happiness to occur, simply was not going to happen. I had seen my son enjoy this event before, if it had been meant to be again it needed to happen. When it comes to crafting new memories, there are no second takes when it involves a child such as ours. So, I persisted to find another ticket.
Thankfully, the wonderful folks at the event saw the importance of making this happen as well. Bless them all, to make magic happen for a child they had never met.
So, there we were on Saturday, Dec 7 embarking this magical train, yet again. I had already known, if this trip was going to be anything like the previous one we had enjoyed two years ago, we were both going to be in for a real treat. (Albeit for two very different reasons).
For me, simply to watch my son enjoy himself while in the throes of being a happy, little boy. For him…to experience the excitement of singing, music, and watching all of the other children. I had known he would be up on his fragile unbalanced frame, jumping and dancing as much as he could allow himself to do so. He deserved this. Humbly, I did too.
The train was adorned with rows of green, strung with very colorful holiday lights accenting them nicely. It certainly looked festive, and the hot chocolate was a delicious touch to make our spirit’s that much brighter. The woman named Diane on the train, acted as our friendly hostess to be certain every detail of our trip was going to well planned for. She did her job very nicely, as the many faces of holiday happiness within our car could attest.
Across from us at the table was a grandmother and a little boy named Aven. Together, they too were ready for a bit of holiday magic to happen. While my son Kaden watched videos quietly on my cell phone, this six-year-old little boy across from him played with a can of noise putty. Pretty cool stuff if you ask this dad, and a perfectly fun distraction to keep small fingers busy before the journey began.
A special sheet of paper was given for us to fill out, so we might be able to drop it into one of the mailboxes upon our arrival to the “North Pole”. I filled ours out partially, because like a broken record…I knew I might ask for the same thing as I always do. The gift of time.
In the spirit of the event, I kept it to myself and placed it in our bag. On Xmas eve at my house, as I always do each year upon my annual reflection…I will leave it out for Santa to see.
The greeting by what seemed to be a couple of dozen of elves as we disembarked the train to walk to the building where Santa was going to be making an appearance, was a great touch. Kaden enjoys giving a “high five” like the next kid. A few very lucky elves received their fair share from him as we made our way to the special building.
After passing the post office, and a few festive outdoor decorations, we entered and found our reserved seats in the handicap section. Plenty of space for Kaden to be “himself”, and for his dad to melt a little.
There was no shortage of carols being sung, an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Clause, and even a chance for every child to shake the Jolly man’s hand as he purposefully worked his way around to meet each and every child. For a kid, truly the stuff of happy dreams and memories.
For about 30 minutes, the place was certainly filled with the spirit of the yule. It was truly refreshing to see such innocence taking place all around me. I only wish it could take place more often, and not just at the holidays. An observation for another time I guess.
We found our seats back on the same train car and greeted Aven and his kind grandmother, to share in our mutual excitement of what we had all just experienced. Clearly, he had enjoyed himself in there too just as much as we had. I’m not sure how any kid could walk away not feeling happy and anticipatory of Dec 24 after that experience!
Our small talk on the train scratched the surface of a special wish Aven had written on his letter to Santa. A similar wish to ours in fact. You see, his grandfather was battling Stage 4 Lung Cancer.
Aven wanted to share his wish with me. His thoughts were about Santa helping to see that his wish might be granted. From the lips of a six-year-old, came his faith in Santa to help his ailing grandfather. Remarkable.
So as our journey ended, the carols all concluded, the bells and the coloring books handed out, and as the train pulled into the station, we all said our “goodbye’s” and went about our separate ways.
Since my son is nonverbal, I had plenty of time to reflect upon Aven’s wish during the 45-minute drive back to our house.
I could absolutely relate. On more than one occasion, I have asked for a few favors from the big jolly guy myself regarding my ailing son. I even recalled once in July while at Boston Children’s, I placed my faith in Xmas magic, as I put on a Christmas carol by his bed. Though his eyes remained closed, I am certain Kaden heard it. I certainly believe in the power of thought, hope, and prayer.
What I do know from all of my years of wishing; is that anything is possible. Especially this time of year. And truthfully, I cannot think of a better environment for Aven to make such a wish, then upon the very special train from which we had just come.
I have also learned over the last dozen or so years, that it is ok to wish for impossible things every now and then as well. Lord knows I have done that too, countless times over.
But Aven, I will honestly tell you this… never stop wishing and believing in the magic. Hope is powerful, I can attest. I can also attest that miracles do happen sometimes.
One was sitting directly across from you on the train.