As adults, we usually enter the holiday season with trepidation. We want to experience the magic that is promised in the Christmas carols we hear or the imaginary clean slate we create for the New Year, yet usually by the end of it all we are the same jaded people we were before Halloween. Just like the boy in “The Polar Express,” we hope to hear the bell ring every year but somehow its sweet sound misses our ears.
When I was young, I loved Christmas and created an ideal Christmas in my mind, as I stared into 1970s thick Christmas lights and their reflection on the gifts stacked beneath the tree. But I was the only child left in the house, as my siblings were a decade older than I and wrapped up in their own lives. So when the actual Christmas gift unwrapping came, it was a coordination of schedules, an argument between my mother and sister, last minute gift wrapping by those unprepared and a lack of magic in the rush. Mind you, I was quite a sensitive kid so anything that proved imperfect I absorbed too deeply, yet there was something missing. The same has held true most of my life; I still love the holiday but it always feels a tad incomplete.
It was at an unlikely place that I caught the spirit of the season … a train ride through a neighborhood in Roswell. I looked online for a simple light display to show my son one night, and when we arrived at what turned out to be a private residence, the yard was brightly lit with all kinds of items, the garage was turned into a massive Christmas presentation and there was a small train ride that went down the street and back.
When Mr. Carter and I squeezed into our train car with another couple and their daughter, I was the one contorted to the point of discomfort. But my son was excited, and that’s all I cared about. Then, about halfway through the ride as the conductor played carols, the older kids began to sing along and my son did his best to keep up. Cars passed with young kids pouring out the windows yelling “Merry Christmas!” and my son and others screamed “Merry Christmas!” in response. I found I began to tear up at the beauty and passion of these kids sharing the joy of what was happening with total strangers. I also noticed we adults did nothing that entire time but sit still.
We begin this life with wonder and a willingness to connect with others. We cry when we hurt, we smile when we’re happy and all we want to do is hug. I’ve only spent this time of year with adults until my son came along, and now I see the difference. How much have we lost of these childlike ways? In this New Year, the only resolution should be to get that back, rather than how much weight we can lose or getting a new girlfriend or boyfriend. Because we still have that excited kid within us, and we all still need to receive it from others.
So from my inner kid to yours (imagine her hanging out of a neighborhood train waving and shouting at the top of her lungs), happy New Year!