Last weekend Kevin got some tickets from a friend to go on something called the “Santa Train” and since he couldn’t go my parents came with me to take the girls. It was about a 45 minute drive to get out to this little old fashioned town. Since it was FREEZING cold outside and the train was late, everyone was crammed inside the tiny little depot. I started to think we had made a horrible mistake when we were packed into this little store with a bunch of tense parents and kids with runny noses and a toddler behind me started throwing a huge tantrum. He was literally screaming at the back of my head. A few unbearable minutes went by as he got completely out of control and it was one of those situations where you are embarrassed for the mom and you can just sense her desperation, but so does the child so he just gets more and more crazy. She actually told him that Santa wasn’t coming to their house for Christmas because he was being so bad. I bet she didn’t think that one through because I’m pretty sure any woman willing to drive her child to the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold so he can experience the magic of meeting Santa on a real old-fashioned train is not the kind of woman who is going to greet her child on Christmas morning and be like, “Oh, remember when you were throwing a tantrum right before you met Santa? Yeah, I told him about that so he didn’t come. You get nada.”
Anyway, by the time everyone lined up to trudge down the tracks and get on board I felt like we were on Ellis Island trying to get on the boat to America. I suddenly realized the train would not be heated and I had dressed my children in their cute “meeting Santa” indoors outfits instead of their Snow-veralls and puffy jackets.
Luckily when we got onto the train and out of the wind we were so squished into the little train seats that it started to feel warmer. My mom began critiquing the Christmas “decor” which was just a few plastic garlands and snowflakes hanging from the ceiling. My dad started talking about his discussion with someone over politics who just wanted to *complain* about it (only he didn’t say complain) and I had to remind him that you can’t say b**ch on the Santa Train. Classic Glenn.
As the train took off ever-so-slowly on a ten mile scenic tour of Kansas, we were completely distracted from the cold once we took in the gorgeous vistas. We saw cows! Grass! A rusted old boat sitting next to a rusted old truck in someone’s backyard! Cows eating grass! Savvy had a blowout and I had to change her diaper on my lap. It was all so magical.
While we waited for our turn to see Santa, a woman came to the middle of the train to tell us a story. She prefaced it by saying that her mic was down so she would just have to yell. So she yelled The Night Before Christmas and then read a somewhat depressing poem about winter, at which point we were glad she didn’t have a mic.
There were carolers and I started to get into the Christmas spirit once I remembered that the website said they were going to bring us cookies and hot chocolate.
When it was our turn to see Santa we went to another train car to wait our turn to go into Santa’s, which was warm and festive with beautiful decorations. They had a photography company there selling copies of professional pictures but my mom had our camera so I wasn’t concerned about that. Santa was wonderful. He was old and crinkly with wavy silver hair and kind eyes. Avery sat on his lap while I sat next to them with Savvy. I guess they are used to people just wanting to get a good picture of their kid and leave because these two photographers were shouting at us to look at them in smarmy baby voices, maniacally shaking bells and toys behind the camera, and otherwise making a huge scene. They really seemed like nice people, but after about 30 seconds of them completely overwhelming my children and ruining Avery’s moment I yelled, “THAT’S ENOUGH!!! Let her talk to Santa.” I think they got the point.
Avery told Santa she wants a “blue treat.” Um, okay. I can spring for that.
We trudged back to our seats where my dad was sitting with the purses. That’s when I saw them coming down the aisle with a big box of cookies! I felt like I hadn’t eaten in days. My mom and I looked at my Dad like he was crazy when he politely declined. I have no idea what the cookie tasted like but it was delicious. And I wanted more. That’s when I heard the cookie lady tell the guy next to us that they ran out of hot chocolate. At this point I was kind of expecting that, but then I really wished I had grabbed that extra cookie my dad turned down. We all started to get the giggles over what a bust it had been. When the carolers came back my Dad and I sang loudly with British accents and vibrato. I’m sure we were “that family” to everyone else, but we ended up laughing and having a great time. Maybe the Santa Train was just having an off day, but I think next year we will be back at the Hallmark store drinking hot apple cider like we have done in previous years. It’s less whimsical but much more heated.
I am very grateful for the Santa Train experience. Even though my kids are too little to remember it, I’m sure we will be fondly retelling it for years to come.