Monday, December 23, 2013

The Night Train to Christmas

"Nite train!" he called, waving with one hand and holding his daddy's with the other, as they walked out the door. I'm guessing he was probably four years old and he'd been playing so quietly, it wasn't til he spoke that I realized what held his attention. 

I was wandering through my favorite toy store, Tree Top Toys, in the Old Port. The Old Port is a gentrified section of downtown Portland that abuts the harbor (hence, the name) and could easily be mistaken for the backdrop for A Christmas Carol, especially during the Holidays. My attention was held by a Schilling display of wonderful classic tin toys that echo a time before batteries, when toys were wound up by keys and ran on pure imagination. 

The store was crowded, though not so much you couldn't move, and he stood in a corner, near the entrance. His father watched from a few feet away, holding baby sister in his arms and ensuring both daughter and son were kept occupied, freeing mommy to play Santa. I noticed them at first just in passing, like I'd noticed other shoppers, picking up puzzles or stuffed bears, turning them over to look for prices or stroking their soft fur and turning into children as if on que. Some items go to the cash register right there and then, others wait for dreams of sugar plums and a jolly old man with a sleigh to find their way "home."

Like a fictional doctor of my acquaintance, a four foot tall stuffed giraffe resting high on a display rack with a smaller one planted between his hooves and a smaller one yet, between his, caught my eye. The clerk told me she'd recently sold one exactly like the tallest to a little girl who saw him last Christmas, fell in love, and saved her allowance the entire year to raise the purchase price. I brushed away tears at the thought of her carrying him home. Christmas brings out the magic of the heart in ways we rarely anticipate.

 Working my way back to the entrance, I heard a small voice call, "Nite train!" and looked over to see him leave with his parents and wave as though the cars and engine understood. And maybe for him, riding the night train to Christmas, they did, indeed.

(Photo of horse-drawn carriage in the Old Port copyright 2013 by the author)

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