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Mark My Words — Christmas is what you make it…and trains!

Trains. Every year at Christmas, I think of trains.

For many years when I was younger, much younger, I always asked for a train set for Christmas. I attribute my desire for a train set to a couple of reasons.
Growing up, on our car rides between Constantine and Three Rivers, I remember having many conversations with my Grandma Wellington about the two of us taking a train ride together. I am not sure how it started or why, but we often discussed doing it. It is possible that we had to wait for a train on Constantine Road from time to time and that sparked the conversation. Our dream was to ride in the caboose and wave at people as we passed by.
Around the same time, my family moved into the village of Constantine from “the country”. One of the many friends I met had a huge love of trains. In fact, his bedroom had the coolest train set I had ever seen. It was really awesome. Every time we played with it, my “need” of having my own train set increased.
Trains are remarkable machines, but, they can only go as far as the track they sit on goes. They are long, and at times slow. We become angry when we have to wait at a railroad crossing, especially in Schoolcraft, as I see many people on Facebook are always mentioning!
A train set can, to some, be seen as boring. The train goes around and around and around. It stops, it goes and the cycle continues. There is really nothing spectacular about it. Sure, the number of tracks and cars can be impressive. The design, the lights and all the bells and whistles, literally and figuratively, are great, but that is all there is to it.
At my oldest daughter’s Christmas choir concert this past week, they sang the theme “Believe” from the movie “The Polar Express”, which of course, is about a magical train.
“Children, sleeping, snow is softly falling. Dreams are calling, like bells in the distance. We were, dreamers, not so long ago. But one by one, we all had to grow up.”
How true that is. As children, Christmas was always full of hope and promise as the luster and magic of Santa Claus loomed big. Today, we keep that feeling alive at home for our children as well, as this is the season for wonder, after all. I love watching that through the eyes of my children. A simple thing like hanging up lights brings them joy. As they grow older, however, whispers of “Santa isn’t real” grow louder. My response to that is simple. People are allowed to believe how they choose, but no one has the right to tell you what you believe is wrong.
“Trains move quickly, to their journey’s end. Destinations are where we begin again.”
That line of the song stuck with me, as did many others. Like we do in life, a train moves from place to place quickly as to stay on schedule. Each stop is a new adventure. A new adventure, if we choose to make it so. Those lights, cars, tracks and designs that didn’t seem impressive, can be, if we let them.
As the song continued and with my two-year old son in my arms, my mind drifted in and out to random thoughts.
“When it seems the magic slipped away, we find it all again on Christmas Day.”
Christmas isn’t just about Santa or presents. Christmas is what you make it. However you celebrate, whether it is with friends and family, worshiping in church or participating in your own special way, I hope that everyone can at least taste a little of that “spirit” this time of year can bring.
Sadly, I never got to experience that train ride in the caboose with my grandma, but every time I see a train, I think of her and how much fun we would have had. I did, however, get my train set for Christmas one year, but it never made it out of the box. I always said I would get to it “later”. And no, the caboose did not have square wheels like the train on the Island of Misfit Toys!
Just remember, as we celebrate this wonderful time of year, however you celebrate:
“Believe in what your heart is saying,

Hear the melody that’s playing,

There’s no time to waste,

There’s so much to celebrate.

Believe in what you feel inside,

Give your dreams the wings to fly,

You have everything you need,
If you just believe.”

Submitted by Mark McGlothlen

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