My Son’s Train Obsession Became His Best Christmas Gift Ever

Two weeks before Christmas my 9 year-old son told me that all he wanted for Christmas from me was for the two of us to ride the Amtrak.

I told him that we could ride the Amtrak for his Christmas present, but that I still wanted him to open something on Christmas morning.  He actually wanted to ride the train on Christmas Day but knowing that nearly everything would be closed, he said I could buy him three books to open.

A train ride and three books was all my son wanted for Christmas.

Tavares, 9, anxiously waits at the Flint, MI Amtrak station wearing a Jr. Conductor hat
Tavares, 9, anxiously waits at the Flint, MI Amtrak station wearing his Jr. Conductor hat

Tavares is the youngest of my two children.  He is a special needs child that was diagnosed with a rare disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex before he was two years of age. I came out of denial and blogged about it last year.

My son has a multitude of medical conditions including:

  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex
  • Autism
  • Several brain tumors
  • Seizure history
  • Developmental delay
  • Renal (kidney) cysts
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) requiring daily medication
  • Right leg swollen since Memorial Day of last year
  • Behavior challenges (can have aggressive meltdowns)
  • Peanut and tree nut allergy.  Severely allergic to peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios

With an early childhood education, and ongoing learning and support at school and home, my son has come a long way including:

  • All A’s and one B on current report card (3rd grade)
  • Excellent with numbers, dates, geography, meteorology
  • Vast knowledge of trains
  • Elected to student council last month.  He tied with another student so a tie-breaker vote was held.  Another tie so they both got in!

With all of the above mentioned, how could I not put my child on that train?

When I say that Tavares is obsessed with trains, I mean just that.  I am not talking about just watching trains, he knows the different types and how they operate.  He knows the parts of a train and terminology.  His interest in trains began around two years ago, and he is determined to attend college to study and become a train engineer.

After looking at routes to other cities in Michigan, we decided to leave the state and spend Christmas Eve in Chicago, IL.

Getting ready to board the train at Chicago's Union Station to return home
Getting ready to board the train at Chicago’s Union Station to return home

By the way, did I mention that my son downloaded the Amtrak app on his iPhone last summer?  And that he knows Amtrak can travel up to 150 mph, but that it wouldn’t travel that fast on our trip?  He also knew that our train would start traveling 110 mph once we got to Kalamazoo, MI.  Don’t ask me how he knew that because I have no clue.

The five-hour and some minutes train ride from Flint, MI to Chicago, IL was wonderful.  Tavares wanted to go to the museum in Chicago so we took a taxi to the Field Museum.  The dinosaur exhibit was awesome, and I had a great time at the Ancient Egypt exhibit.  The tomb and mummies were amazing.

Tavares enjoying himself at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL on Christmas Eve
Tavares enjoying himself at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL on Christmas Eve

We Ubered back to Union Station a few minutes earlier than I originally planned because Tavares knew there was an Amtrak merchandise store located inside of Union Station.  In case you’re wondering, yes he bought something.

While I was driving home that night, my son said, “Mom this was the best Christmas present ever.  And do you know what the best part is?  I got to spend time with you.”

Tears rolled down my face just as they are now.

My son is aware of his health issues and he lets nothing stand in his way while pursuing his goals in life.

I am not going to let anything stand in his way either.

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After we played a couple rounds of Uno, Tavares fell asleep shortly after departing Chicago’s Union Station on our return trip home
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5 thoughts on “My Son’s Train Obsession Became His Best Christmas Gift Ever

  1. What a great story. I came here while searching for reviews of the Flint > Chicago trip and was pleasantly surprised. I’m glad he had such a great time. I’m sure he’ll make a great engineer someday!

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