She was in her mid-fifties and had been divorced for 10 years.
Her daughters have always spent the holidays with her ex-husband, so she didn’t have much of a sense of belonging to Christmas, while her ex-husband’s partner was celebrating the holiday season.
Wenger’s sister’s family also celebrates Christmas, so she always travels home in Connecticut on December 25.
“I’ve always felt so lonely on Christmas Day, because I’ve never been with my girls,” Wenger told CNN Travel.
Wenger was working in marketing for a non-profit organization. She was satisfied with her career and life in New York.
As the train left Manhattan station, she found herself thinking.
“Maybe I was a little sad,” Wenger recalls.
There were only a few other people in Wenger’s carriage, including a man of the same age who was sitting across from him.
Wenger watched him pull wallpaper and paint samples from a bag, and place them on the table in front of him.
“I had a positive feeling from him,” she recalls. “He’s kinda cute, and he’s lonely on Christmas Day.”
Wenger thought of having a conversation with him.
“That’s William Morris, isn’t it?” she said, recognizing one of the intricate patterns that characterize the Victorian artist’s work.
The man looked up and smiled.
Michael McTwigan, a New Yorker in his early 60s, had been separated from his wife for about a year.
He was on his way to volunteer for a Christmas food drive in Katona.
His boss was living in that area, and he told him about the event, which aims to feed about 300 people during the holiday.
McToigan was spending his time on the train looking at samples of wallpaper as a favor to a friend who wanted a print to match the color of the paint in her apartment.
McTwigan, who is a former art critic with an aesthetic outlook, offered to help her.
When Wenger mentioned William Morris, Mc Teoghan was taken aback.
Wenger explained that she was an art history student in college. McTwigan told her about his background, adding that he now works in marketing.
Wenger said she has also worked in marketing for a large lung cancer research charity.
The duo began talking about the pros and cons of their joint career.
The duo realized that they both shared a love of art and similar jobs and a drive to help others, Wenger through her job and McToigan through his volunteering.
As the train passed through rural New York, the pair realized that they were enjoying each other’s company immensely.
The journey from Grand Central to Katona takes just over an hour.
Upon their arrival in Katona, Wenger gave her business card to McTwigan.
The pair got off the train together, then descended the station stairs to the ground floor, where Wenger’s mother was waiting to be picked up.
As they said goodbye, McTowigan held her for a moment, and said with a smile, “Nice to meet you.”
Wenger shared what happened on the train with her sister and the rest of her family.
“I met an interesting man,” she explained.
“Yes, there was something going on between you two,” Wenger’s mother said with a laugh.
McTwigan kept thinking about meeting the train, too.
“I definitely wanted to see Linda again,” he says. “I had no doubts about that.”
Over the Christmas and New Year period, the duo exchanged quite a few emails.
McTwigan asked if Wenger would like to meet when they are in town together. In turn, he suggested visiting a live event in New York, run by the storytelling group The Moth.
As people stood on stage to tell their stories, McTwigan and Wenger continued their conversation just as they stopped at Katona Station.
There was a series of subsequent encounters in New York City.
The duo tried not to have any expectations for each other, especially since they were both previously married.
“Let’s slow down and see how it goes, because after all, we know the risks of making the wrong choice,” McTwigan said.
He added, “With more experiences together, all the similarities, similar feelings and values, became clear to each of us, I think… we became even closer.”
“We were so happy together, which we haven’t seen in a long time, we both,” Wenger says.
“Too much happiness becomes addictive,” she added.
On Christmas Day 2012, the duo took the Metro-North from Grand Station to Katona, just as they had done the year before.
But while 12 months ago they were strangers, now they are a married couple traveling together to visit the Wenger family.
Instead of sitting across from each other, the pair sit next to each other.
The duo asked another passenger to take a picture, and the custom turned into a tradition.
“Every year was like an anniversary, it was a great thing,” says McTwigan.
The duo had lived in Brooklyn for six years, traveling every Christmas to Katona, before moving to Connecticut in 2018.
Wenger and McTowigan married in July 2018, at their home in Connecticut.
“People were so happy we found each other, so it was a great day for us,” says Wenger.
The two have always celebrated the “Christmas miracle” that brought them together.
“It’s crazy to meet someone in such a random way that they have so much in common,” Wenger said.
She says everyone they know loves the story of their meeting.
“It was an extraordinary chance encounter,” McTwigan explained.
And this Christmas marks 10 years since Wenger and McTowigan sat across from each other on the train.
Unfortunately, the duo were unable to visit Wenger’s sister in Connecticut this year, as the annual Christmas party was canceled on December 22, when her niece tested positive for COVID-19.
The duo hope their story will inspire people to open up to new experiences and seize the moments that come their way, no matter how unexpected.
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