Weekends in December are filled with holiday parties — gatherings where eating and talking are the main activities, and the standard costume is a red sweater. It's a time for catching up with old friends, hanging out with the extended family, and eating delicious treats. Last night, family and long-time friends gathered at my house, all crowded together by the fire and the Christmas tree, and in the kitchen, and hallway, and upstairs in the bedrooms. Our house was overflowing.
Today, Red-haired Sister picked up With-a-Why so he could go play with his cousins. My kids went off to do some errands, and my husband began working on his holiday newsletter. I decided that after the cleaning and cooking of the last couple of days, I deserved some quiet time to myself. Because the snow in my own woods was pretty deep, I went over to the main street of Traintrack Village and walked along the traintracks.
The landscape was mostly grey and white and pale blue; plows had piled the snow into banks along the street, and every roof was white with snow. Two kids were building a fort in the mountain of snow at the end of a driveway. A man in a dark overcoat was digging his car out of the snowbank near the post office. I climbed up on the railroad bridge to look out over the trainyard, and a train swooshed past underneath me, the bright orange cars swaying just slightly as they moved along.
I've always liked to watch trains go by. Influenced, perhaps, by childhood picture books, I imagined the railroad cars carrying food for Christmas dinner and presents wrapped in bright paper. I waved to the passengers on the Amtrack trains and pictured them arriving home for the holidays. The trains don't stop in Traintrack Village, they hurry past, going east and south to Big City Like No Other, or west to City on Great Lake. When I turned back to look at the town, I could see lights coming on already in the houses, preparing for the longest night of the year.