The Polar Express

When my Dad had five of his six kids, he decided to take us on the Grand Canyon Railway.  When my Dad had six of his six kids and two of them were married, he decided to take us on the Grand Canyon Railway.

When my Dad had six of his six kids and three of them were married and producing grandchildren, he decided to take us on the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express.

My husband had to take a lat minute trip (seven hours round trip) for work, and we were afraid he’d miss the train. But he made it because he’s the CHAMP of all CHAMPS.
Outside the train depot they had horse-drawn buggies.

They were pulled by clysdales. The kids weren’t too impressed. After all, it wasn’t anything they hadn’t seen before.
(Thanks to Grandpa for the ride and thanks to Steve for the picture.)

The old-fashioned train we rose on had seat that you could switch to face each other. I had a heck of time annoying my family to get two seats facing each other for our little family of four to sit in when what turned out happening was my children sat with us for all of two seconds before giving us faces like this:
And begging for Grandpa.
Our family of four soon turned into a family of three.
And, shortly thereafter… two. My husband and I had two seats to ourselves and my parents ended up with one seat for four.
As the train went to the North Pole, “chefs” came around and handed out cookies and hot cocoa “made by Mrs. Clause.” After we had eaten our cookie and finished off our cocoa, they played a reading of “The Polar Express” over the train intercom and the “Chefs” walked around showing us the illustrations in the book.
They had real chef clothes and everything.

Soon after the reading was over, we arrived at The North Pole. We didn’t get out, mind you. We were instructed to stay on the train and simply look out the window.
And what did we see?
Lights! Lights! Thousands of lights! And little workshops! And then…

I couldn’t get a picture because the flash would reflect off the train window. But he was there, and I surely believed he would be.
I must also mention to the non-believers that Santa was -in real fact -a real man standing out there in the cold. I think my husband should share the “champ” title with him.
Just as we passed the North Pole,the train stopped and started backing up. The kids were thrilled to be able to see Santa once again.

“Santa? Where are you?” My son asked. But as we passed back by, he was GONE. My son didn’t give up looking for him and only looked away from the window to give us this face:o
And ask, “Where’s Santa?”
After a few agonizing minutes, a “chef” got on the intercom and announced that Santa was on the train! The downside? We had to sing until he got there. The worst part? If you didn’t sing, they made you take the microphone and sing in front of everyone on Train Compartment “I”. The entire lot of us help up our little paper songbooks and dutifully sang (or lip synced) as the Song Nazi Chef made her rounds, pulling up obstinate train-riders who refused to sing and sending them to the front of the group.
I guess we finally sang loud enough because…

He CAME! Santa came onto the train! He stopped to visit with every single child and give them a very special gift.

“Don’t ever lose it,” he told them, “It’s very special.”

And here’s a picture thrown in for a good laugh…
After Santa left, the train soon came to a stop back at the depot. We all climbed off the train and grouped together in front of a painted sign. A kind passer-by offered to take our picture, and we let him. He did such a good job we nearly tracked him down to pay him.
There’s ALL of us (minus one angel grandchild, Laynee). And the best news of all is that that picture will become outdated as of Julyish 2011… my sister in law’s got a bun in the oven!

As we walked through the depot, perused the gift shop, and left without buying anything, my daughter absolutely BROKE DOWN in tears. When I asked her what was wrong, she let me know.
“I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE!” She said. I know you shouldn’t reward a child when they throw a fit. I know that giving them what they want when they bawl for it isn’t in good parenting practice.
They will be the undoing of my husband. They will be the undoing of me. Someday, I believe they will be the undoing of the entire world.
Minutes later, we were back in the gift shop. The boy bought a little toy train. The girls bought a bag of rocks. And we all drove home happy.
The only failure of the entire trip? The elf hat I made Dad. I added his brand to it in hopes he would keep it on. He tolerated my foolishness for one picture.
It was a hat made to custom fit a cowboy hat. Very legit. But he passed it on to my little brother Jim who became instantly attached. I strongly believe that my Dad actually really really REALLY wanted it bad, but he knew it would break my poor brother’s heart if he tried taking it away.
Yeah, that’s what happened.

Thank you for a GREAT experience, Dad!!!!!! We all loved it, and you are the best. We stopped on the way out to take a picture of the old train they have sitting by the station. When I looked at it, I remembered the first time we rode the Grand Canyon Railway as a family. We all posed in front of the old train for a picture. I wore floral tights. This is a bad picture, but it’s still worth posting on account of the memory it gave me.