To the raspy-voiced grandmother from Bathurst who magically appeared in the seat across from us as we slept on our way to Montreal:
Gosh, you're nice. Thank you for being every cliche about New Brunswick and New Brunswickers. Your patience and loving admiration of our children made this long haul a whole lot nicer. I hope you had a great visit with your son and grand-daughter in Montreal.
To Jane, as she sleeps soundly in an uncomfortable chair in coach:
This will be the first of many times on this journey I will say to your mum: Thank goodness for Jane.
You are a rock. And you sleep like a log.
To the porter in Montreal who moved our bags to our Toronto-bound train:
The only person who understands what's happening right now is you. Our train from Moncton was two hours late. We've missed our connection, and have to take a later train. For some reason, obvious to only yourself, this means my checked bags won't be automatically transferred (for free) to my next train, but lugged by you (the guy who would have probably moved them anyway), with the expectation that I will give you a hefty tip.
I tipped you alright. But only because I was afraid if I didn't hit your desired amount, you'd take my bags outside and sell them.
To the porter who did the same in Toronto:
I tipped you because I was amazed by your ability to drop my bags not once, not twice, but three times. I was especially impressed when you let two of my bags spill onto the tracks in front of an on-coming train. Kudos.
To Mike, Jo, Seb, and Sophie in Toronto:
I am so sorry you had to wait for us so long. It seemed like such a good idea to have you meet us for our two-hour layover in Union Station. Instead, you waited, and waited, and waited for tardy friends, only to find us frazzled, tired, and rushing to the next train.
We wouldn't have made it the rest of the trip home that night had it not been for your delicious steaming cups of hot cider, your home-made gingerbread, and your familiar warmth and caring. Thank you.
************ return trip letters*************
To the gentle elderly blind man who boarded our train in London:
I'm so sorry about the way the people on this train treated you. I listened in horror as the attendant dumped you at the front of the train, telling you he didn't have time to help you with your heavy bag or to help find you a seat. I watched in disbelief as that couple in the front seats refused to even acknowledge your presence as you politely asked asked for help. I still have a hard time believing that in a train full of able-bodied, able-sighted passengers and staff, the only person willing to lend you a hand was a guy who already had his hands full wrangling three kids under the age of six.
To the passengers and staff who watched me escort the man and his bags to an empty seat in the back of the car:
Don't think I didn't notice none of you could look me in the eye.
To the dad and son from Gaspe who sat across from us from Toronto to Montreal:
You guys were so much fun. This ride was a breeze because of you. Thanks for putting your newspapers aside and playing with our kids.
To the Via attendant on our overnight train to Moncton who showed me the secret bathroom with the diaper-change table:
You are the only Via employee on this whole voyage who spoke to me like a human. I have traveled with Via many, many times for many, many reasons and have always been very impressed by the level of service. Something must have happened, because the service on this trip was dreadful. Dreadful.
You, however, bucked the trend. Thanks.
To the dude who thought he hit the jackpot by finding two empty seats facing each other at the front of the train, next to two families with a grand total of four kids under the age of six:
I don't think I've ever heard anyone sigh as many times as you. Please realize that even well-behaved children, such as ours, occasionally talk, laugh, and play. You probably don't believe me, but I was more relieved than you when you got up to move to another seat.
You didn't know this, but my wife and I nick-named you Indy. Your likeness to a young Harrison Ford is startling.
(Also, I know you think your jaunty scarf and stylish clothes make you seem smart and sophisticated, but you were reading a Dan Brown novel. Come on.)
I'm so sorry for snapping at you as I got you ready for bed. You didn't deserve it. We were all a bit cranky by this point of the trip, and I'm very sorry that my crankiness landed on you. Let's play hockey in the garage when we get home.
To the genius at Via who decided to buy the Renaissance cars for long-haul travel:
Have you tried to squeeze into those bathrooms?
Very soon, you will be too big to curl up on my chest, nestle into the crook in my neck and fall asleep. I may not have slept well on the train, but I slept happy knowing that, for now, I had my little girl right with me.
I know we joked about how much stuff we brought on the train, but truly, we would not have made it all this way (28 hours each way) without everything you meticulously planned for and packed. From the 3-D dinosaur puzzles, to the surprise cinnamon rolls for breakfast, you continually amazed me with resourcefulness.
And, you're cute.
To Jenna and Alex in Moncton:
I'm so glad that storm kept us an extra night at your place. I hope we didn't put you out. Trivial Pursuit was a blast, and I will forever remember that Charlemagne's father wasn't Mr. Charlemagne.
Respectfully, Best, Yours Truly, Love,