chicago union station
Christmas Storm
by Donna JT Smith

We are stranded,
Landed
With two small children
In the night,
The night before Christmas;
Stranded
In Chicago
In a train station.
And the snow comes down,
As the ice freezes up,
And we
Are stranded,
Landed
In a train station.
But somewhere in the crowd —
Somewhere in the crowded
Tall room,
Ceilings to the sky —
Someone
In that noisy, bustling somewhere
Begins to play —
Begins to play
Sweetly, clearly,
Cutting through the
Storms,
On his French horn,
“O Holy, Night”;
And everyone is
Silent.
Everyone
Who is stranded,
Landed
In this train station
On Christmas Eve,
Oh, so many cold
Christmases ago,
Is silent and smiling,
While people with cookies
Tucked away in bags —
Christmas cookies
For Christmas —
Pass them around
To strangers
Because they are for Christmas
And it is Christmas
Right that minute.
And every heart
Is joyful
For those
Minutes in the train station
While “O Holy Night”
Floats up —
Up to the very heavens
Where the stars are
Brightly shining
Above the storm.

PHOTO: Union Station, Chicago (Christmas 1952).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a young couple, we lived in Minnesota for a while, so had to make trips to Maine after our children were born to see grandparents in Maine. After our train trip at Christmas in 1983, we decided to move back East to make the trips less eventful. This was the longest trip ever with two little kids (an eight-month-old and a three-year-old old) on a train iced to a halt a few times and going in reverse at others. Had to inch along because frozen tracks can crack and it was frightfully cold out — well below zero. Bathrooms stopped working having frozen up. All trains were cancelled when we got to Chicago, so we ended up between homes not knowing when we would be continuing on the journey. But we had the best time in Union Station on Christmas Eve sharing Christmas cookies with strangers and listening as a man waiting for a train pulled out his French horn and played Christmas carols for hundreds of tired passengers. Instead of arriving the day before Christmas, we got there the day after! Thirty-six hours late. I can’t think of a better Christmas than that one, though.

Smith

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Smith is a retired teacher, who now spends most of her time either writing, painting, or walking the dog. She and her husband live in a log home on the coast of Maine, and enjoy coffee dates at Starbucks. Due to a flooded basement and then a house fire in 2007, most of the family pictures were destroyed. Too bad, because she was much better looking before 2007.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: “Reflections on the Train” — Preparing for Christmas 2015 in our home in Maine.