Oklahoma City family fun can be magical.
The Eastern Flyer Polar Express by Premier Rails comes to Bristow at Christmastime and the season's charm somehow arrives along with it.
Christmas isn't a season I enjoy in the way I see others enjoy it: the red and green, the hustle and bustle, presents, trees and cheerful lights. I see projects, tasks, time I don't have.
Sam, Isaac and Gabriel are 8, 3 and 11 months. Life moves so fast as the keeper of these three delightful boys and I worry about not taking enough delight in all of it alongside them. My baby's first Christmas is lost on me this time, this year, this season. It's been a difficult fall for our family as we sell our current home and prepare to move into another one, with all the change and hassle inherent to the process. We decided to take a Saturday to get in the spirit of Christmas and take the time to be together, enjoy a day.
Time, however, was exactly what seemed to disappear when my family and I took a ride on Premier Rails' Polar Express that has visited Bristow Depot for the past two years.
I hurriedly prepared for the 90-minute drive to Bristow. Gingerbread? Check. "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg storybook? Check. Matching feetie pajamas with appropriate holiday themes times three in sizes 8, 4T and 12 months? Check, check, check.
We had the opportunity to try out a Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab pick-up truck for a few days leading up to our scheduled Polar Express weekend. The truck was bright blue, brand new and surprisingly comfortable. I have a Toyota that I love but I'm not a pick-up girl; the thought of fitting an infant car seat, a toddler safety chair and a booster into a truck gave me some pause. It was actually a smooth ride, though, roomier than I'd have anticipated. Seat warmers in cold weather and satellite radio are new perks to me and I know my sons will remember that time mama drove a pick-up. The day felt like a change just when we were needing one.
We paid the corresponding highway tolls, read our story, laughed as we drove. No one argued, kicked or cried. We didn't think about moving boxes and words like "equity," "closing" and "mortgage" took a holiday. Gabriel fell asleep. Sam and Isaac looked adorable in the matching pajamas and I'm fairly certain this is the last year our third-grader can look cute in those. It was worth doing because the afternoon felt reserved just for us.
The most difficult aspect of parenting to me is being fully present. I'm planning for the future, learning from the past and easily distracted meanwhile. There are so many other aspects to focus on than just these three eager faces and it's all vying for my attention; for my sons, though, this is Christmas.
Soft holiday music filled the decorated train car along with a vintage car that I don't think is easily recreated. Pragmatism rules for me, so to be swept up in the spirit of the day somehow felt like living in a snow globe even for just the one-hour train ride, a world apart. We drank hot chocolate, ate sugar cookies, heard the same story repeated in hushed tones and saw Santa Claus. Elves danced outside the windows and we fell in love with the experience. A train conductor greeted each child and patiently punched their names in their golden tickets. The genuine engagement from each staff person for each child added to the ride's authenticity.
If you'd like to catch the Polar Express while it's still in town, here are three tips to prepare for your visit:
Plan for a walk: Parking is limited around Bristow Depot. You may have to find a designated space downtown or at the town's public library a few blocks over. Signs do label reserved lots but know that it's a little bit of a distance to walk with small children, especially if it's cold, which is almost a given around the holidays.
Take hats, gloves and warm clothes: Whether you're walking from a designated parking lot a few blocks over, waiting outside for the train or coming back to your car in the dark, dressing for December weather is what keeps kids from being miserable. If you don't bring winter gear with you, incredibly cute mittens and hats are available in the gift shop. I don't often purchase souvenirs but the designs available are worth purchasing; we tried to find additional sets later online without success.
Dress in pajamas: The Premier Rails Polar Express website FAQs detail that attendees can wear pajamas with regular street shoes. I wasn't sure if children would actually be wearing pajamas; we changed Sam, Isaac and Gabriel quickly when we saw that all kids and many adults wore holiday jammies aboard. It's not awkward when everyone's doing the same thing. I wouldn't hesitate to do so next year.
We drove home to the house waiting for us, with its boxes and packing tape, responsibilities and processes. I've heard all the phrases about home being where the heart is or wherever it is that the family members find themselves together. That afternoon, we found each other, in a truck, on a train, just being happy together. No matter where we spend Dec. 25, it's a perfect memory. Life has plenty of uncertainty but family gives us all a framework to go forward, a basis, with plenty of good times. Isn't that the real spirit of Christmas anyway?
If you'd like to plan a good time with your family this holiday season, see MetroFamily's lists of holiday events. For more information about the Premier Rails Polar Express at Bristow Depot, click here.
From our family to yours, we wish you a magical holiday season.