It’s XOXO AD’s 12 Days of Christmas! To “stuff your stocking” before Santa arrives later in the month, we’re bringing you holiday excerpts each day, from now through December 12. Be sure to check back every day for a heartwarming, ho-ho-holiday treat!
Today’s treat is from Rexanne Becnel’s The Christmas Train. On the train to meet her father, young Anna Spano befriends Eva Stephens, an older woman who occasionally thinks she’s traveling to her home village in pre–World War II for the holidays. Recognizing Miss Eva’s disorientation as the same dementia her late grandmother experienced, Anna isn’t sure who is actually taking care of whom on the journey. Along the way they make some new friends.
Right in front of Miss Eva’s seat a little boy knelt, gripping the seat back and peering at Anna with bright black eyes.
“Hi,” Anna whispered, finger-waving at him.
Instead of replying he pushed a battered Raggedy Andy doll up so that Anna now had two pair of bright eyes watching her. She grinned at them both. “Hi, Andy.”
“Hi,” came the muffled reply.
“Are you going on a Christmas trip somewhere?”
“Uh-huh.” Andy bobbled up and down. Then, “To see Santa.”
“Ooh, Santa.” Anna raised her eyebrows high. “Lucky you.”
“Uh-huh.” The little boy shifted higher so Anna could see his whole face. “This is the train to Christmas. You goin’ to see Santa, too?”
Anna knew the truth about Santa. After all, she was ten years old. But she still remembered how nice it used to feel to believe in him. She nodded. “Yep. I’m going to see him, too. On the Christmas train.”
They both looked up when the train whistle blew and the brakes caught with a low, screeching moan.
“Juan, turn around and sit down,” his mother said. “We’re almost there.”
With a sudden jerk Miss Eva woke up. “Mutti. Mutti!”
“We’re on the train,” Anna said, grabbing her arm before she could lurch upright. “It’s all right, Miss Eva.”
Juan’s mother twisted around to look at them. “She is okay?”
“She’s just dreaming. About her mother,” Anna added on a guess. “She’s fine, though. Aren’t you, Miss Eva?”
She stared hard at Miss Eva, willing her to please be okay. Because if she wasn’t okay, Anna didn’t know what to do. “We’re on the train, remember? Going to Ennis,” she prompted.
And like a lightbulb switching on, Miss Eva went from foggy and afraid, to alert and smiling with anticipation.
“Ja, to Ennis.” Then her faded blue gaze fastened on the little boy and his Raggedy Andy. “Hello, Liebchen. Fröhliche Weihnachten,” she added with a lilt in her voice.
“Is that German for Merry Christmas?” Anna asked.
“Ja.” She smiled at Anna. “Did you know the Christmas tree comes from Germany? Und many Christmas carols also.”
“Feliz Navidad,” the little boy began to sing. “Feliz Navidad.”
“Shh, shh.” Juan’s mother turned to hush him. But seeing Miss Eva and Anna’s smiles, she smiled back and ruffled her son’s silky hair. “He loves the Christmas,” she said in accented English.
“Me, too,” Anna replied.
“When you can be at home with the ones who love you, it is sehr gut,” Miss Eva said, happiness radiating from her face.
On the third day of Christmas, XOXOAD gave to me…
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