Monthly Archives: November 2012

‘Tis the Season

When I was a kid, the beginning of the Christmas season blossomed on the Friday after Thanksgiving. My mom would wake us up, we would eat breakfast and then, dressed to the gills in warm clothes and hats (this was before global warming and 60F Thanksgiving Days), and we’d head down to the commuter station at the end of our street to catch the Rock Island down to The Loop.
Now if you’ve gotten this far without saying “Rock Island?” you get an extra point or two. These days the trains are shiny metal double-deckers with the word Metra streaming along the sides of their cars. If you detrain at certain stops, you sit in certain cars…a forgotten detail that almost took me to Joliet one afternoon on my way down from Chicago to my sister’s house in the suburbs. In olden times they were oblong single deck cars, I remember them as a dusty grayish hue, with steps as steep as a mountain to a child and cars that were like miniature couches you could move to that you could sit facing each other. Of course we, my sister and I, always wanted to sit near by the window so we could see the neighborhoods pass by, so we got to move the seats. And the windows could be opened! Not that we ever did, but there were little mini metal pieces that would lower the top panel. In the days before air conditioning in most commuter trains, it was a good thing. The body heat could be stifling. But I’m getting off track here. We knew we had to behave on the train. We were going down to have lunch with Dad at the First National Bank. Any shenanigans would be duly reported and we might lose our movie privileges.
Our destination was the LaSalle Street Station, a huge place with two floors, a shoe shine stand or two, massive public restrooms, and rows and rows of oak benches for people who were traveling or waiting to continue on their way on another train. Sailors, soldiers, families, all in one great room. My choral group actually sang there during the Christmas season when I was in high school…but that was later. We’d exit through a door that led to an El Stop but we’d take the platform down to the street, always dark because of the elevated steel tracks that wound around the city. I remember passing tobacco stores, lingerie shops, places you could buy luggage, all on the way to Clark Street. There we turned north and went to our first stop, a cafeteria. Pixley and Ehlers is gone by now, but they had the best sweet rolls and chocolate milk. We’d have a snack before going to let my dad know we were in the city…and possibly see my “Uncle” Bob, who worked by the huge vault.
What we did next depended on Mom. Sometimes we did some shopping, at Wieboldt’s or Goldblatt’s or Carson’s, before we met Dad for lunch. Sometimes we went to State Street and looked at the marvelous and wondrous windows at Marshall Field’s, going inside to watch the kids in line for Santa and ride the escalators up to a housewares department. We always went to Kroch & Brentano to look at books and maybe buy one. After lunch, usually in the bank restaurant but sometimes at the wonderful Forum, a cafeteria to beat all cafeterias with lines and lines of fantastic and unknown foods, Dad would go back to his work and Mom would take us to our “real” destination, a movie. Whatever was playing from Disney that year, or perhaps even a good drama, we got to see them on the Big Screen in Chicago. No ratings back then, so I suppose we could have gone to Mogambo if Mom had wanted to, but it was usually Babes in Toyland or one of the other holiday comedies. The theatres were full and the streets were more so, but everyone was in a wonderful mood. At least to my young eyes. Finally, tired and ready for a nap, we would go back to meet Dad and take the train back to our suburb, sometimes having to sit on our parents’ laps because(of course) everyone else was going home as well. That trip always signaled the start of the holidays for me.
These days, life doesn’t seem quite as simple. People are more in a hurry, some more rude than others, everyone on a deadline of some sort. Holiday sales begin in full force on Black Friday if not on Thanksgiving evening. I’m lucky to find time to watch a movie at home much less at the multiplex and working retail keeps me running at least 25 hours a week. Still, I love those memories. They help keep me sane because somewhere I believe there is another Mom who takes her children somewhere exciting (to them at least) on the day after giving thanks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Random Thoughts

For some reason I find myself considering the year we’re about to leave and wondering about the year to come. If we make it past that famous Mayan prediction of doom for 12/21/2012, just what will be in 2013? Que Sera Sera seems to be the stock answer (although not necessarily as sung by Doris Day).
Will we survive 12/21? I don’t know. Am I stockpiling water, canned goods, Sterno, candles, batteries, cat food and toilet paper? No more than I usually do for a Central Illinois winter. I’m not putting bars on my windows, learning to shoot, wield a knife, or aim an arrow either. If the world is to be no more, none of that will do much more than attract marauding mobs of the suddenly desperate. Of course, my main wish is that the entire prophecy is a non-event so that I can eat my shortbread, sing Christmas carols, and go to see Les Miserables on 12/25. I can dream, right?
When I was younger, I didn’t have a prayer list. At least not for specific people and causes. If I remembered at all, I would generally lump everyone into the “Everyone who needs your help and care” category right after my own requests. These days, my list is specific. I have family and friends dealing with crises or waking up to find crises on their doorsteps.The list never gets shorter…and sometimes gets longer as people find themselves dealing with unexpected tragedies. And I try not to forget how fortunate I am as I pray for them and how incredible it is that my words seem to make a difference in some way. A combination of celestial and earthly support system.
I’m also thinking a lot about the last election. I consider myself an independent…the man/woman and his/her ideas rather than the party and its platform. So, after all the mud-slinging, nasty words, posturing and promises, the results are in and I have one hope for 2013 and beyond. Let those on both sides of the political fence get off their nicely padded chairs and work together to improve this country for the people who elected them. All of the people. We may have revolted against England, but we formed this country on Compromise. Yes we did. And we need to do that again. No “I’m right and you’re wrong” or “My way or the highway” thinking please. All that does is waste time and money…and at this point both seem to be in short supply. As for those in the 20 states petitioning to secede, ah well. It’s alike being in the schoolyard yet again. Still, it might not be a bad thing. Think of the additional Federal Funds which (because there is no Social Security, Medicare, VA, Healthcare or military in Foreign Aid) could be funneled back to the very programs that need them. Even the passport revenue would go up as we all apply for them in order to visit our family and friends in those”sovreign states”.
Told you these would be random thoughts. Feel free to comment, politely of course, if you like. If I can figure out how to access your comments…because WordPress and I are just learning to get along..I will at least say “hey” and “thanks for visiting”. Now I’m off to get one more cup of tea and some protein before I head out into the chill November day. Carpe diem!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Just My Imagination

Imagination– an act or process of forming a conscious idea or mental image of something never before wholly perceived in reality by the one forming the images (as through a synthesis of remembered elements of previous sensory experiences or ideas as modified by unconscious defense mechanisms); also : the ability or gift of forming such conscious ideas or mental images especially for the purposes of artistic or intellectual creation

 Imagination is a powerful thing. It can amaze you, torment you, titillate you, stimulate you, keep you awake at night, get you out of bed in the morning, scare you and even protect you. It’s one of the traits that separates man from beast if you believe science and folklore.

 Imagination feeds the stories we tell, whether they’re simple fables to our children or the more complicated ones that morph, we hope, into published material. Our characters live in our imaginations, some more openly than others but they’re all in there. All we have to do is consider “what if” and one or more will pop out with suggestions. Some are outright ridiculous, others too gory or scary or out of the ball park to even think on for more than a moment or two. The major characters will promote themselves with “what if I open the door and see my long-lost (fill in the blank here) holding a gun?” Or “What if I ignore my instincts and (fill in another blank here) anyway?” The secondary characters might counter with “But if he/she does that, then what happens to me?” And so on. I can spend thirty minutes envisioning the characters running around in my brain, each one a salesperson trying to convince me his or her idea is THE ONE. Most of the time, none of them convince me, but there is that sense of possibility. That’s when I start my own “what if?”

 The danger is in forgetting the reality that also has to exist in life, fictional or not. We need to use imagination, rein it in a bit at times, let it run full steam at others, but always know that it is only one part of any process.

 What do you think?  Is there such a thing as too much imagination?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized