The most fitting title for our Christmas holidays spent with Colorado grandparents might be ‘Planes, Trains, and Lego-mobiles’… or equally appropriate, ‘Haircuts, Hot Chocolate and Hilarity.’ My parent’s house was brimming with the three generations, including 2 brothers, their wives, and 5 grandsons including my little ones. My sister’s family came and went too, adding 2 more boys and 2 girl cousins to the mix. We all shared different flying stories upon arrival–the weather plus the holiday making travel tricky for some– but enjoyed all of the lively chaos that a house full of people brings, and the joy of the kids digging into their stockings, or opening their first set of Legos (“Look, Star Wars spaceships, wow!”).
All of the boys are fascinated with trains, especially my twin 2 year old nephews, and my own sons were counting on Grandpa to set up his old electric train set they remembered from years past. The older boys each learned how to connect the metal tracks, set the wheels down in their grooves, and control the speed and direction of the train with a switch. They spent hours running the train around its track, adding and subtracting new cars, loading cargo, building block bridges, and putting the whole thing back together when it crashed or came apart.
As a Christmas gift for every family my youngest brother made a short film of train footage taken all around Seattle, Washington, of trains, monorails, and trolleys in the city. He was able to get a wide variety of trains on the move and in the train yards, and workers loading freight cars, and re-attaching wheels to a train. He then set the whole thing to wonderful old train and track-laying songs. The kids watched the Seattle Rails DVD more times than I can count, and all happily sang along to “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” with Pete Seeger at the end of the show. It’s no surprise then, that Santa came through with some Thomas the Tank Engine toys for the little guys on Christmas morning–somehow he knew!
My favorite train adventure, though, was exploring an old train-yard museum not far from where my parents live, where the defunct cars sit rusting in the snow. They seemed to be waiting for eager climbers like us to find them, ready to imagine riding them back in their day. Best of all, the kids got to see all of the wheels, couplings and cabooses up close and life size, the giant versions of the toys they’d been playing with. Another kind of magic!