Spirit of Christmas
For me now, many Christmases have come and gone. When the temperature plummets, the lights go up and the snow keeps drifting down my thoughts ramble backward over the years to pleasurable memories of fine food, roaring fires and the loving warmth of family and friends at Christmas.
This memory is one of my favourites.
One year in the early 1990’s I was puzzling over what special gift I could give to my first grandson. Unfortunately I had very little money at that time. After much thought I came up with an idea and a few days before Christmas my daughter and her husband drove us toward Soda Creek and the railway crossing near Kaufman’s ranch. In those days the BC Rail passenger service was still running at least as far as Prince George with spots along the way where you could flag the train down.
The day was very cold but clear and quiet as we stood waiting. Soon we heard a far off “puff puff, rumble rumble” which rapidly turned into a thunderous roar as the Iron Horse came hurtling towards us hurling great fountains of snow and steam into the frigid air. It was an impressive sight! With a tremendous shriek of brakes it shuddered to a stop beside us and I’ll never forget the huge eyes and quizzical look on my little grandson’s face. Was he baffled? Was he excited? Was he afraid? He must have trusted his Grandma though because he put his small hand in mine and we mounted the steps into the passenger compartment to wave out the window at his Mom and Dad. The train slowly picked up speed ” chuff. chuff.. chuff…. chuff chuff chuff.” In moments we were speeding along beside the snowy fields dotted with feeding cattle, whose warm breath made halos around their faces. We glimpsed the Fraser River down below, we spotted a couple of bald eagles perched in a dead tree and were surprised by the vast depth of the canyon as we crossed the trestle bridge on our way to the Williams Lake station. Each crossing gave the engineer a reason to blow the whistle and that lonely wailing sound plus the rhythmic clickety clack of the wheels rocked both Grandma and boy as we snuggled together and watched the glittering world go by.
The Station House was all decked out for Christmas with coloured lights and fir boughs tied up with red ribbon and bows. As the train shuddered to a stop with another squeal of the brakes we could see my daughter and her husband standing on the platform wearing big smiles under their toques and reaching welcoming arms to help us down the steps.
Isn’t it amazing how that $10 ticket gave us each such a wonderful Christmas gift?
As the year draws her curtains around us, my wish for everyone is that your past and future memories be happy ones.