"Why to the North Pole of course! This is the Polar Express!"
Every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember my dad read The Polar Express to me and my brother before we went to bed. Then we'd put out cookies for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer, and we'd crawl into bed. I have the entire book memorized and I adore it. I love all of the illustrations, though my favorite has to be the one where all of the children are drinking hot chocolate in the train car. The colors are so rich and warm that I feel like, even though they all jumped onto a strange train with a strange man, they are perfectly safe. One year when we woke up on Christmas morning, I found a worn bell that looked suspiciously like a sleigh bell on Santa's cookie plate. My parents said they had no idea where it came from, but their best guess was that Santa had left it for me. I treasured it.
These days my parents continue The Polar Express tradition at the store. They have the book, a portable DVD player with the movie, and a little basket of bells sitting on a table near the door. With each bell they have written this message, "Our wish is that this bell will always ring for those who listen. That the sweet sound reminds us of the true miracles of the holiday season, be they of this world or not" along with this quote from the end of book,
At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound.
Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all those who truly believe.
Tonight I'm having dinner with my family and Adam's family. Then I'm going to go home and read my own copy of The Polar Express that Bette gave me two Christmases ago (which was one of the best gifts I have ever received). I don't expect Santa or any make-believe magic like that; only the same safe feeling that I have when I look at that one picture in the book, and the magic of stopping to listen and hearing the bell ring. I hope you guys (the few of you who may read this!) have a happy holiday too!