From the dining car window, we watch the snow falling outside. We celebrate every lurch as the train speeds along. We order the Thai-style sea bass and a nice Merlot.
In the past, every New Year’s Eve my little husband has looked around at whatever party we have been invited to, and he has whispered to me: “New Year’s Eve, a person should not sit in one place, waiting for a new year to happen. A person should be always in motion, helping along the year to finish up, helping it to jump ahead to the next one.” Always, on New Year’s Eve, he is dissatisfied and a little bit cranky. Even the fireworks do not comfort him.
Finally, this year, we are on a moving train, moving forward. He insists we must both sit on the same side of the table, so we would both be going in the right direction.
The waiter brings the wine. “I will make a toast!” my little husband says, raising his glass.
I raise my glass also.
Now he stands up. “When we buy us a ticket to go on the Amtrak, with money we earned by the sweat of our pants, then the New Year is not just something that is happening to us! We are happening to it!”
We drink. Some passengers at nearby tables have heard him. They smile and also drink, whatever they have handy.
“I couldn’t have said it better,” I tell him.
“And when that clock strikes midnight, and we are hurtling along, is there ever going to be some kiss!”
He can still make me blush. I even wish a little that midnight would come faster.
The train stops.
The loudspeaker: “Your attention, please. Due to a problem with a motor, we will be making an unscheduled stop at this station for…approximately two hours. Until approximately one a.m. Passengers may wish to visit the station in the meantime, where souvenirs are for sale. Your Amtrak staff apologizes for the inconvenience.”
Rarely have I seen my little husband so silent.
As if he has died.
After a very long time, he says: “The movie we saw, the George Clooney one, about Brother Where Are You? What was the thing that blind man rode on? Where you push up and down?”
“You mean the handcar?”
“I would like to locate a handcar. Which I remember now is also called a Kalamazoo.
It is also for going down into the mines. But we would just want to go along the track.”
He hurries to the other end of the car and accosts the waiter.
The waiter looks very surprised and shakes his head. My little husband appears to argue. The waiter looks more and more upset, and shakes his head more. He is, I believe, trying to control himself.
When my little husband comes back, he says “Let’s go on the platform.”
We get my coat and his jacket and we stand outside. It is snowing harder.
“Maybe snowshoes,” he says.
“I don’t know how to do that,” I say.
“Skis? I know you went on that rope tow with me. Always you hung on good.”
“That was maybe sixty years ago,” I say. “More. I must tell you I could not ski any more, even if we had the skis.”
He sees two boys, maybe teenage, who are playing with their skateboards under the canopy, where the snow has been shoveled away.
“Boys!” he says. “Would you be interested in lending your skateboards?”
They give him blank looks. “All right then,” he says. “Would you be interested in selling them at a reasonable price?”
They turn away and go into the station.
My little husband picks up some snow. He pats and pats it until it is a good snowball. Then with an outraged cry, he hurls it at the train, where it smacks against a window and falls back down, breaking into a million snow-pieces on the platform.
I am only joking when I say “I guess all that is left is: we could hitch a ride.”
But he becomes more furious.
“Hitch a ride?” he fumes. “Hitch a ride? A person who does such a thing is a beggar! A supplicant! Never will we be beggars!”
“But sometimes, you pray. Like, ‘Baruch atah adonai, etcetera.’ And sometimes in the etcetera are you not a supplicant?”
“Well, maybe a little,” he admits. “But mostly I am a person that is making praise.”
“So – let’s be both,” I say.
We stand by the road.
We point our respective thumbs in the direction we and the train were going.
My little husband waves his thumb back and forth, at first a little bit reluctantly, then with increasing vigor and increasing enthusiasm.
Pretty soon he starts to smile, and the smile gets bigger and bigger as the snowflakes settle on his nose, on his curly hair, on the shoulders of his old leather jacket.
He is his joyful self again, waving, waving, and I start to think that maybe he feels he is personally, with his very own thumb, bringing in the New Year.