Reflecting on the Holidays: A Friendship Forged by a Future Train Set

Eric Green


The upcoming event made me apprehensive.

Five of my wife’s relatives were coming to stay with us after Christmas Day. Only for one night. But we live in a small apartment and enjoy a quiet, simple life, and even one night with so many people would be more than I’m accustomed to dealing with.

But they were family, so I had to accept it.

Not to sound melodramatic, but I’m a rather solitary figure, so when I got married at the advanced age of 49, I wondered how having another person around would affect my previous single persona. But we’ve been married for 25 years and I’ve come to treasure our life together. But adding five more people to the equation, even if transitory, I wondered how that would work.

Those staying with us would include a 5-year-old boy and 8-year-old girl, and since this was the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season, I felt in a giving mood. I told my wife, who was shopping at Macy’s for presents, to buy a train set for the boy, since kids are supposed to like trains, and something appropriate for the girl as well.



My wife wasn’t fooled by my request. She knew that the 74-year-old kid she had married wanted to play with the train set himself, even if the 5-year-old would take it home with him. But when she saw the expensive price at the store, she passed on it, to my great disappointment.

As D-Day arrived that morning, I lay in bed wondering how we would accommodate all our guests. I heard them step through the front door and immediately my pulse rate quickened, and my stomach tightened, not knowing what to expect from this dramatic change in our daily routine.

Eventually, I stumbled into the living room to greet them. They had driven all night with only a few rest stops, over 700 miles, to get here, and from their blurry-eyed expressions, you could tell they had gotten little or no sleep. I felt for them.

My wife showed the parents and their two children to our bedroom where they would all sleep in one bed; my wife’s niece would sleep on a mattress on the floor; while my wife and I would find sleeping quarters elsewhere in our place.

The 8-year-old girl in the group gave me a shy glance and quickly looked away. The boy, less inhibited and more outgoing, surprisingly greeted me by my name, since I didn’t expect him to remember who I was. For some reason, his recognition of me lightened my spirits, made me glad to see him, like this wouldn’t be so bad after all. It even inspired me to make the whole family a breakfast of my special silver-dollar pancakes and bacon, never mind if that wasn’t the healthiest meal in the world, but they all seemed to savor it. Again, I was surprised at how I wanted to make them feel at home.



Even if I still felt ill at ease, I told myself to stop making such a big deal of crowded surroundings. Lots of people have little or no privacy where they live, such as my wife, one of 12 siblings who grew up in an extremely poor family where she slept three or four in a bed with her sisters in their small room.

I praise the giving and heroic families who take in refugees from war-torn countries even if it means overcrowded conditions in their homes. In my wife’s case, it was her family’s tradition to have them stay in her home and not a hotel. In my tradition, it was the reverse; I stay in hotels. But for my wife’s family, their hotel would be our small apartment.

This situation reminded me of that old TV sitcom, Eight Is Enough, but that show had a large family living together on a permanent basis. We would be hosting this family for only a night, and then they would be off to their next destination, staying with another family somewhere far away.

That’s when I heard the little boy was in distress. Apparently, he might have been allergic to the egg and the almond milk I had put in my recipe to make silver-dollar pancakes for the family. I had unintentionally made him sick. He quickly recovered, thank goodness, but I still wanted to make it up to him.



That’s when the well-behaved and polite boy said he’d like some cereal, but not the Cheerios or the Raisin Brand I offered him. No, he wanted something called Fruity Pebbles, and I drove to the grocery store to buy that and regular homogenized milk for him and his sister. It was the least I could do, and I enjoyed watching them devour the cereal after I drove back from the store. Having no kids myself, I had never experienced the satisfaction of watching your children get real pleasure from the simplest things.

It became time for our guests to leave. As they left, I said: Come back anytime. And I sincerely meant it.

Now about that little train set I wanted my wife to buy for our 5-year-old nephew. She assured me as soon as the holidays ended, she’d go back to Macy’s to see if it was on sale. Maybe soon we’d do the 700-mile trip down to where the boy’s family lived so I could present it to him in person. Meanwhile, perhaps my wife could buy me my own train set as well?


Author Bio:

Eric Green, a Highbrow Magazine contributor, is a former newspaper reporter, U.S. congressional press aide, English-as-a-second-language teacher, and now a freelance writer in the Washington D.C. area. His articles have appeared in various newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.


For Highbrow Magazine


Image Sources:

--Pexels (Creative Commons)

--Victoria Akvarel (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--Nicole Michalou (Pexels, Creative Commons)

--Cottonbro Studio (Pexels, Creative Commons)


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