Thursday, January 10, 2008

Christmas Memories Growing Up in Chicago

Now that the holidays have come and gone, my memory of how things used to be when I was a kid still remain. I grew up in Chicago with my three brothers and sister. My parents were both from Georgia. I remember the live Christmas tree and how it filled the room with the strong scent of pine that I crave every Christmas. I remember decorating the tree with big multicolored bulbs and being careful to string the lights just right. One Christmas I got a small electric shock when I plugged in the lights and it made a small hole in my pajama shirt. It scared me, but Daddy reassured me with a hug that everything would be alright.

I remember how Daddy would take us down to 12th street in Chicago, to this outdoor market to buy fruit, nuts and sweets. We would buy different kinds of nuts in the shell like walnuts and pecans and those big dark, hard nuts, which I can’t remember the names of now—and how we struggled to crack them open to reveal the sweet meat inside when we got home. Sometimes my Aunt Ruby would send us pecans in shoe boxes from Georgia. When momma got them we would shell them and she would make the best pecan pie you ever tasted.

I remember Daddy buying peanut brittle and a special brittle made with coconut and those giant peppermint sticks that we would crack and eat greedily. Daddy would always buy lots of fruits like tangerines and sweet red apples. We would make a big platter on the table with the nuts and fruit. While driving home Daddy would take a detour and we would drive through neighborhood after neighborhood looking at the light decorations in front of peoples homes. Daddy always had a station wagon with a back seat that would face outside. My brothers and sisters and I would always fight to get the back seat to assure a perfect view of the twinkling lights. Daddy would always call back to me, “Are you still there”? he asked smiling, because I was always so quiet.

When we finally got home we would rush under the tree to shake whatever present had our names on it, and try to guess what was inside. As a joke sometimes we would wrap up something someone already owned, and present it to that person on Christmas day as if it were new. Momma and Daddy didn’t like us to do that, but we got such a kick out of it. I always seemed to get exactly what I asked for. Back then we got simply one gift each. One year all I wanted were white go go boots. Another year I longed for a new pair of ice skates so I could skate near the park off Lake Shore Drive.

I remember shopping for a gift for Mama and Daddy and going to Sears downtown off State Street. I loved taking the escalator up and down and the funny music that piped through the store. My big sister Cynthia always took us to Marshall Fields and Carson Pirie Scott to look at the elaborate Christmas decorations in the store fronts. There was always an animated Santa in the window and toy trains and gingerbread houses. It was all so enchanting.

Posted in January, 2008

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