When I was a teenager there was a tiny bookshop in my hometown. It was actually a Hallmark store, bookstore and town bus station rolled into one - quite a place. I would visit at least once a week. As a budding artist it was never short of inspiration. My best friend's sister worked at Hallmark at the time and we would occasionally see one of her designs. After pouring over greeting cards, little seasonal gifts and magazines there was the book aisle. The children's book aisle.
The first time I saw the Polar Express I was in awe. So magical, such a beautiful story and the art work, well Mr. Van Allsburg knows his stuff and the Caldecott medal on the book cover attested to that fact. I immediately laid down my hard earned babysitting money for this treasure - it would be the perfect gift for my young brother.
I knew as soon as I bought the book that I would have to give him an extra surprise to go with it. And that led me to the Five and Dime store, yes our town had an honest to goodness Five and Dime. There I found a large jingle bell and a small box. I took the bell home and removed the inner ball. You know - it had to be the magic bell from Santa that only those who believed would hear it.
My younger brother at first was a little miffed that I gave him a broken bell, but as soon as I read the story to him and asked if his bell was still broken - he assured me no, he could hear it. And for just that night on that Christmas long ago as a jaded teenager, I could too.
And on a side note the book takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan - a city I called home for many years during and after college. So now the story has a slightly more nostalgic feel for me and there are parts of the town that still look like the neighborhood in the book.
I hope you find some magic as your enjoy the holiday season with loved ones.