Saturday, December 23, 2006

One of my favorite Christmas stories...

A Holiday Stop for Train Number Seven
by Lavetus Mahan Wimmer, Medford, Oregon
Published in Family Circle December 11, 1984

My most joyful Christmas remembrance goes back 60 years, when a simple message in a letter brought together three nations. The great flu epidemic of 1918-19 had claimed my father several years before, leaving Mom to care for us seven children. An enterprising woman, she did the best she could providing for us. We were poor, but happy.

Many of our friends lived, as we did, close to the railroad tracks. There were the Hopi Indian boys we often played with and our Mexican friends, who lived in a section house. These houses were provided by the railroad company, which allowed only two rooms per family, no matter how big the family was.

As I think back now, we were a super bunch of kids. We all got along well and learned to respect each other's backgrounds. We visited each other's houses and enjoyed our families' ethnic foods as often as we could, though our parents never mingled.

The area between our house and the train tracks was our private playground. From there, we watched the trains go by each day. We waved to the crewmen daily. Although the passenger trains went by very fast, the crew­as well as the passengers­never failed to wave back. Our favorite train was the Number Seven, Chicago Limited; it was long, shiny and black, with its Pullman windows red-curtained.

The afternoon of Christmas Eve, with faces aglow, noses runny and hands blue and trembling from the cold, we 17 children lined up to wave and shout holiday greetings to our favorite train. We all watched in awe as the Number Seven, whistle blowing, topped the grade. And then, wonder of wonders, that long, magnificent train pulled to a halt right in front of us. We couldn't believe it.

The big engineer swung down from his cab. Close behind him came the crew, carrying boxes and crates filled with treats for us. As the trainmen approached us, the passengers leaned out of the windows, waving and calling greetings to join in the celebration. The conductor stood near the train, observing the festivities and holding a single package under his arm.

Mother had heard the commotion and came out to join us. The conductor handed her a letter along with the package. Then, before we realized what was happening, the train pulled away.

Mother began to read the letter, and soon she was shedding tears of joy. She sent the other children to get their parents, telling them to come back with baskets for the goodies.

When everything was divided among our families, Mother asked us to be quiet. She opened the package the conductor had given her, and there, under all the layers of white tissue paper, were 17 pairs of red woolen mittens in various sizes. With the help of our parents, we each found our size and eagerly put them on our cold hands.

Mother then took the letter from her pocket, and we listened very carefully as she read it aloud: Merry Christmas to our Junior League of Nations. You are the future of our country. We stand proud of you. It is our fondest hope that someday all races and nations, like their children, shall come together and live in peace.

From the Engineer and Crew of Number Seven, Chicago Limited


Anonymous said...

Great story! Merry Christmas from Ohio.

Melanie said...

It is the hottest day of the summer, and I am eating a late lunch at my desk while reading back entries of your blog. This one made my eyes well up with tears.

In case, you hadn't figured this out before: I think that YOU ROCK.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story! I'd like to add it to our Christmas Stories next Christmas in The Crenshaw - Pdgett Clan Family Web. In the meantime I'll search through my files and find yet another Family Circle Magazine Christmas Story that I have loved to share for many seasons. Of course it's 3:21 AM and here I am reading your blogs - Carla's Jami & Anna are dure before 11:00 AM and we're going to the Rodeheavers Boys Ranch Blue Grass Festival and hear The Isaacs B G & Gospel Group and mingle amid the thousands of RVers Bands... The letters I have to type are "efkbm" - hello! ((o;