January 4, 2012

Expect the Unexpected and Cherish Every Moment

This was the year we decided on no gifts for the adults at Christmas time. It was simply the right thing to do for our family. No one needed anything and budgets were tight anyway. Of course, the children would have presents under the tree, but none of the grownups.

That didn't mean we didn't want to be together and have a memorable experience. So, arrangements were made to spend a few days in the snow and cold of Flagstaff in a rented house. That was a great change of pace, but there was still one more thing needed to make it special. 

The "conductor"
Every Christmas time the Grand Canyon Railroad becomes the Polar Express, patterned after the hit movie. Leaving from a train station 40 minutes west of town, adults and kids dress in pajamas (well, not all of us), and board the train for an hour long ride to adventure. Telling the story of the Polar Express, drinking hot chocolate, eating cookies, and everyone singing Christmas carols sets the stage for the big moment. Santa Claus boards the train at the "North Pole," and goes from car to car greeting the children and posing for pictures, while handing each child a bell, just like in the movie. The excitement and glowing faces of all the kids, along with many of the adults, makes for a magical evening.

But wait, there's more. Picture an 18 month old, with a case of stomach flu, depositing the cookie and hot chocolate over mom and their seats just a few minutes before Santa comes down the aisle of the railroad car. Imagine several adults springing into action, mopping up the mess, changing the toddler's clothes, and getting everyone ready for pictures with the guy in the red suit and white beard.

Then, after  the train returns to the station, the adventure continues. Just as all of us are ready to head for dinner, another round of sickness hits the infant. More cleaning up and rushing to the the cars in 18 degree weather to hurry home and get everyone cleaned up and fed. Dinner becomes cereal and leftovers, but we are safely back in the house. Early to bed for everyone.

So, was this a very unpleasant Christmas experience? Absolutely not. The kids helped set up and decorate a 4 foot tree. On Christmas morning gifts were torn open and instantly any upset or concerns were forgotten as the squeals of joy and excited chatter filled the living room. The adults played games, watched a movie, relaxed, soaked in the hot tub (on a 30 degree porch!), and enjoyed each other's company.

We have always been a family that cherishes experiences over things. Memories never fall apart, shrink or break. They never are replaced by a new memory. They create the unbreakable fabric of a family that lives and loves together. This will always be part of our family lore. The infant's sickness will be part of the story as we remember Flagstaff and the Christmas of 2011, smile at all the fun and thank God for the blessing of family.

Oh, in case you are worried, within a day of our return to Phoenix, the flu had passed and everyone was fine. All that was left were the pictures and memories of a time well spent.

A perfect image of  our Christmas together
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  1. A beautiful Christmas experience. Love the idea of the Polar Express.

  2. Ryshia,

    No Tom Hanks in evidence, but this this Polar Express was well done. Even little Kassidy, between bouts of sickness, seemed to enjoy herself.

  3. Many memories of Chrismas in Flagstaff. Never did the PolarExpres, but am thinking it might have tobe on the list if we decide to do Flagstaff for Christmasnext year- a real possibility.
    Sorry about the baby with the upset tummy. Too much excitement... It is good it didn't frizzle the fun.

  4. Thanks for sharing this beautiful Christmas experience.


  5. Anonymous,

    You are welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

  6. Isn't Christmas wonderful? I just love the magical feeling of this holiday. Sounds like a happy adventure for the whole family.

  7. Wendy and I once did the "no presents," for Christmas. Instead, she, both boys and I rummaged through our closets in search of "stuff" we never use. We ended up filling four large plastic bags with clothing that we then donated to the local homeless shelter. Bill

  8. Donna,

    It was a memory-making few days...teh perfect family gift.


    What a great idea. I'm going to file that away and suggest it for us next year.

  9. Now that was just sweet. Really sweet. And in the remembering in years to come, the flu part will be funny, and the kid who was sick will hate it when you tell the story to everyone! Stories of our trip to Paris a few years ago always include my daughter, who was still weak recovering from the flu, passing out on a famous bridge. Yep, laid out on the sidewalk. My sister describes it as a slow swoon.

    I loved this story. The glow of your family memories shines across cyberspace to warm the hearts of all your readers.

  10. Galen,

    Passing out in Paris tops the flu in Flagstaff but both are part of the texture of family life.
    And, you agree quite right> Kassidy will bristle at being the 18 month old who threw up on the Polar Express!


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