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Kristy Harvey column: Christmas through the eyes of a child

The best part of being a parent must be seeing the world through a child’s eyes again. If you have kids, you know what I mean. When you’re young, everything is brand new. The way a butterfly’s wings flap in the air, the way a snowflake falls, perfect and soft and white on a window pane, the way a jingle bell tinkles just so.

As we grow up, some of those things that were once the most amazing we could imagine become mundane.

I think it was the year before my son was born that I noticed some of the luster was fading from Christmas. It was still fun and special, of course. Seeing friends, getting together with family, all of the traditions. But it wasn’t quite magical.

Maybe that’s why God gives us children, so that we can see the world through their eyes again, feel their joy, embrace the wonder.

Last weekend, if I had boarded a train in Spencer alone, it would have been just a train. But, with my son Will, a crew of very talented Lee Street Theatre actors, and some very rich whipped cream-topped hot chocolate, that train wasn’t just a train. It was the Polar Express. It was the segue to an adventure that would begin in North Carolina and end with Santa and Rudolph, all the reindeer, and maybe even Santa’s sleigh. At the North Pole, of course.

We sang Christmas carols, ate sweets of every variety, listened to “The Polar Express,” and then, in what seemed like no time at all, we were there. On a freezing cold, very North Pole-esque day, we filed out of our train cars to the site of twinkling Christmas lights, a sleigh and eight reindeer with Rudolph leading the way. And then, moments later, the climax of the entire event: Santa.

On his daddy’s shoulders my normally reserved little boy waved enthusiastically, his mouth open in awe. He’d sat on Santa’s lap before, had his picture taken. But now, here we were, at the North Pole, with the real, live, one and only Santa.

He didn’t fuss or cry when Santa once again walked out of sight. Only continued to stare, in wonder, as we boarded the train again.

It had been a successful trip. We’d seen Santa. We’d seen the reindeer. With another sip of hot chocolate and few more carols, we’d be ready to go home.

But then the unthinkably wonderful happened: Santa himself boarded the train. He handed out jingle bells one by one, from his reindeers’ harnesses, no doubt. And as the car was overtaken by the noise of those tinkling bells, you knew that even the adults felt a little bit star-struck by the moment.

The line, “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe,” echoed through our ears. For a moment, I’m sure we all caught ourselves believing, amidst the joy of the children, that it wasn’t the bells themselves that were ringing. It was our belief that made it so.

As I tucked Will into bed that night, he sighed and said, in that perfect, toddler sort of way, “Mommy, this is my favorite time of year.”

I smiled. “Was it so fun to see the North Pole today?”

He nodded, rolled over and, practically before I was out the door was sound asleep, dreaming, I’m sure, of elves and candy canes and sleigh bells.

I walked down the hall, feeling that almost indescribable tug in my heart, that love for someone so small that takes over your world so completely from his very first breath. I couldn’t have imagined it, how deeply the roots of my life would instantly intertwine with his. And I knew then that Chris van Allsburg, the author of “The Polar Express,” must be right — about Santa, about Christmas, and, of course, about the magical gift of parenthood and viewing the world through the eyes of a child once again. “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

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