The world of make believe is portrayed through a child’s imagination each year through the magic of Christmas. Anything is possible. Hearing a favorite story or watching a movie or reading a book unlocks the door to an endless array of fantasies. This is a mystical and enchanting time for a child, and I was no exception.
The magic started at my house when we put up the Lionel train set. Around the first week of December, my family transformed the basement into a captivating village from another place and time. I couldn’t wait. As my mom and sister and I unwrapped the train set, cottages, tunnels, and other accessories from their boxes, my dad and brother made a platform out of a piece of plywood and two wooden horses. Once that was up, they nailed down the track and rigged the lights to bring the village to life.
As the evening unfolded, the pounding dwindled off to a few final taps of the hammer. With the track safely secured on the platform, we set up the train station along with the transformer to make it run. As our village went up, anticipation soared. Nothing in this world could compare to watching the rural town come to life with its stucco cottages, duck pond and covered bridge, and a farmer’s stand surrounded by a rough fumed fence.
Standing back to admire our little town, I wondered where the train was heading. Deciding it could go anywhere I wanted it to go, my creative mind went to work as I allowed myself to drift off into a fantasy. Conjuring up images of pine forests lined with chestnut trees, blueberry bushes, and long walking paths, I gave my imagination free rein.
I’d just finished reading Heidi, and her adventures in the Swiss Alps sounded like so much fun. Rolling green pastures under snow-capped mountains high in the hilltops flashed through my mind along with fresh country air, pine trees, and friendly people. Thinking of the millions of paths to explore and all that rich Swiss chocolate and good cheese, I decided to take a trip to the Swiss Alps. Scurrying to catch the train before it took off, I was just in time as the conductor rang his bell and bellowed out, “All aboard!”
Large sturdy farmhouses framed by green pastures landscape the mountainside. Lazy milka cows graze in the grass alongside old wooden barns. White chalets with flowering window boxes and carved wooden doors sit amidst the sunny valley, and a cheerfully splashing creek meanders through the forest thickly studded with needle and moss-covered boulders.
Looking up at one of the mountain chalets, I notice a lady leaning out the window holding a sprinkling can, ready to water her wild purple orchids. Hearing a rustling in the pine needles, she waves a cheery greeting. “Hello down there!”
Toward the gushing water stream, a man whistles as he turns the wheel of the butter churn. From the charming cottage trimmed in bric-a-brac, the aroma of blueberry pancakes waft through the clean mountain air. A lady sticks her head out the door and yells, “Breakfast is ready – come and get it!”
Dairy farms are nestled in the valley beneath snow-capped peaks. Cow bells tinkle in the breeze as cattle wander freely in lush undulating meadows, munching on grass without a care in the world. “Moo – moo.” Higher up on the slopes, mountain billy goats roam the hillside, and a golden eagle soars across the sunny blue sky.
My adventure takes me deeper into the woods where there are huge boulders embedded in the ground. Cheerfully chirping mountain birds sing to me as I pick a handful of blue bells, and a woodpecker busily drills in the bark of a tree. The white speckled plumage of a nutcracker disappears into a bristly pine tree, emerging a moment later with a pinecone between his toes.
Hiking further up the alpine trail, I look down and stumble into a world of untouched beauty. A waterfall tumbles over jagged peaks and deep gorges into a sprawling lake beneath. Red deer frolic in a mystical meadow of wild flowers, and a swan splashes about in a crystal clear stream.
As the sun breaks through the morning dawn, a farmer wearing a tall black hat stands on a mountain top herding sheep. His cheeks are rosy from the cold, but he yodels as he works. “Yodel-ay-hi-hi. Yodel-ay-hi-hi!” Picking up his alpenhorn, a long, curved wooden horn, he blows into it, signalling to a neighbor across the Alps.
A hidden valley makes a picturesque scene as skiers sweep down the steep slopes of the mountains. Giggling kids bobsled in the snow, and a St. Bernard yips around them in playful circles. Frosty the snowman, dressed in a Santa hat and red scarf, waves to me as he stands tall amidst the bristly pine trees, bidding me a cheery farewell as I depart the majestic Swiss Alps. “Ho Ho Ho!”
Did your family put up a train? And if so, do you carry on the tradition with your kids? I'd love to hear your memories. Comments are most welcome!
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!