The Polar Express: A Journey of Eli’s First Train Ride


January 7, 2013 by CassieCravings

Trains fascinate my little boy, as they do with most. He loves to “chugga chugga” from deep in his chest and to whistle “Choo choo!” He wants to read about trains, talk about trains, watch about trains and play trains.

One evening my husband surprised us with a copy of “The Polar Express.” It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and he still danced about with anticipation. I raised an eyebrow. He could barely contain himself as we flipped through pages. We poured over the beautiful illustrations and became lost in the story.

About mid-way through, however, the husband could stand it no longer. He nearly burst, “I have a surprise. A good one. Like a really, really good surprise! It’s for us as a family!” He grinned as Eli and I waited for the reveal.

Finally I called out, “Well!?”

He sighed, “I shouldn’t tell you. I’m sorry. Let’s just keep reading.” He buried his head back into the book.

I did not carry on our reading.

Eventually he looked back up, and I waited patiently. One of the most maddening and wonderful things about my husband is that he is a big kid. I knew that if I wanted to know the big secret, all I had to do was wait.

“Okay! I can’t take it! We’re going on the Polar Express! I got tickets, and we wear our pajamas…well, Eli does anyway. And we drink hot chocolate, and Santa will be there!”

My husband and I counted down the days. We told Eli of the our next great adventure. He was excited, but he couldn’t quite grasp the idea of seeing a REAL train.

Finally the day was here. In the middle of the afternoon, we dressed Eli in his pajamas and his dinosaur slippers. We packed his favorite blanket and piled into the car. It was a 2 hour drive to The Polar Express, and our little one slept the entire way.


Once we arrived, I cradled my drowsy boy as he blinked in disbelief at the great steam engine before us. He peered cautiously over my shoulder. A loud whistle pierced the winter air, and Eli cowered into my chest.


“It’s too loud. ‘Dat twrain,” he muttered.


I reassured him, “It’s all right, Baby Bear. That’s the train’s way of saying hello.”

Gradually he uncovered his face to take another peek.


Trains are wonderfully noisy and powerful. Steam engines bellow stacks and stacks of steam as they barrel down the track. It is an awesome sight no matter how many times one has seen it. But to see that towering engine and never-ending line of cars for the very first time is a moment that is pure magic.


As taken by the moment as my little one was, he continued to be cautious. He would watch the train from the safety of mine or his Daddy’s arms.


“I wonder if he’ll get on,” my husband whispered.

“Oh, he will, ” I smiled confidently, hoping my doubt didn’t show.


The time to board came. Eli continued to cling to us, but his curiosity pushed him to walk onto to the train.

Quietly he looked around as his feet dangled off of the seat. He had said very few words since arriving at the station.


My husband and I exchanged glances, “Eli, do you like the train?”

Eli slowly nodded.

The conductor called out, “ALL ABOOARRD!” Not long after, a lurch propelled us forward.

Eli began to breathe quickly. My cautious child was stuck between being thrilled and terrified. But slowly a smile crept across his face, “I like ‘da twrain.”


The Polar Express took us all the way through to the North Pole, though it took a different route than Chris Van Allsburg’s tale.

We traveled the farmland and woodland of East Texas. We zipped past quiet creeks and towering pines. We waved to horses and watched for deer.


My cautious boy was now bouncing, clapping and cheering as the train chugged along. Servers danced in the aisles and the entire car overflowed with Christmas spirit and the incomparable excitement of children. We were on our way to the North Pole; We were going to see Santa!

Hot chocolate and cookies were passed to the passengers with song and smiles. Eli took a sip. He handed it back and said, “‘Dat’s not cow milk.”


Before long, the sun had melted into a pink and orange masterpiece across the sky. Our scenic route began to fade into the darkness. We listened peacefully to the rhythm of the train on the tracks.

As darkness enveloped our world outside of the train, there was a faint twinkle. It could barely be seen through the trees. But it was there. A few moments passed and that faint twinkle grew into countless lights of all colors. They draped from the trees and traced along fence posts.

Then, there it was: a sign that read “Welcome to the North Pole”

The train erupted into cheers. Children danced in their seats. “Where is he? Where is he?,” they called out  with noses pressed to the glass.

Santa stood on the porch of his workshop. He waved a hello and hurried to board the train. Chatter and cheers rose as everyone anticipated a visit from our very important guest.

As we waited our turn for Santa to visit, Christmas carols were belted out. The servers danced through the aisles and invited the children to join. It was a moment of pure innocence and joy. It was a moment of pure Christmas.


Only a few songs had passed, and it was announced that our turn was next. Santa was coming to see us!

We chanted, “Santa! Santa!” My child practically vibrated with excitement. His heart pounded as he joined the chant. In his anticipation, he covered his eyes.

Santa burst through the door. Eli clapped and yelled, “‘Dere my Santa!”


Santa took a turn with each child. Eli’s turn came, and he began to shy away. Santa smiled, “Would you like a bell?” Eli nodded and held out his hand. A shiny silver bell landed in his open palm. His eyes widened. Quickly he shook the bell with vigor. A smile stretched from ear-to-ear at its silver song.

I scooped him into my arms and whispered quietly in his ear, “As long as you believe, you will hear the bell.”

In a voice barely above a whisper, he answered, “I’s believe.”


Craving more pictures of our Polar Express adventure? Check out mamacravings’ fb.

8 thoughts on “The Polar Express: A Journey of Eli’s First Train Ride

  1. I love this photo essay! Well done 🙂


    Misfit Matriarch

  2. So cute! I took my son on the Polar Express in 2011, when my son was four. It was such a magical experience! My son was bummed I couldn’t get tickets this year. Coincidentally, I wrote about something similar today…

  3. I had chills reading this! My fourth graders adopted Kindergarten buddies and we had a Polar Express Day…..
    At the end my kids pulled out the bell on a ribbon, and put it on their Kinder…..I have always had a special place in my heart for this entire Christmas treat!

  4. pinkoddy says:

    Trains are so magical aren’t they. I LOVE the dinosaur slippers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 7,147 other subscribers

Mamacravings Categories

Mamacravings Archives

%d bloggers like this: