Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chicago holiday tradition

You’re on the road by 10 a.m. Sunday morning.

Due to an early Christmas miracle (the Bears are playing Monday night) traffic is light. It’s just 45 minutes and you’re there.

You park in the lot across from what used to be Marshall Field’s on State.

It’s Macy’s now.

The giant red star in the Macy’s logo seems obnoxious and rude (and – a hint of prejudice here – SO New York) compared to the friendly green of Field’s.

You wait patiently to view the store windows that tell a story you already know. This year it’s Mary Poppins. Suddenly you’re singing along with the crowd all the songs you haven’t heard in years.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go downnnn…the medicine go downnnn…the medicine go down.

“THERE SHE IS!” scream bundled-up kids as Mary Poppins magically floats down in the small wooden doorway of the first window.

You walk under the giant gold trumpets pointing to the sky. For some reason they look a little worn and dirty this year. Maybe it’s just that you never looked closely at them until now.

As is tradition, you discuss how the windows compare to previous years. You agree that the Grinch remains the best ever.

Secretly you think the Harry Potter windows were far superior in every way, but Harry’s story is way too new to be awarded Best Ever.

As usual, you wonder what they do with all the stuff once the windows come down. You imagine a secret warehouse deep in the city where Cinderella dances with Scrooge while Hagrid guards the door.

You leave the last window reluctantly, mumbling supercalifragilisticexpialidocious under your breath.
Inside Macy’s, you take small comfort in finding that it’s all the same.

The rush of warm air. The dolled up “babes” working the perfume counters.

Still at work, your imagination tells you the sales clerks are just a little bit colder this year.

But the lady at the Frango counter downstairs belies that thought with genuine warmth and fun.

She double bags those unmistakably heavy candy boxes (six this year!), placing one austere red-starred shopping bag inside another.

And again, that prejudice creeps up: Cheaper bags. You’d never have to double up with a heavy green Field’s bag. No way.
You wander up to the 8th floor – the best place to view the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room below.

It is sponsored by Wedgewood this year so the tree is festooned with pale blue and white accents. You agree it’s not as pretty as the Lenox tree from years before.

You take the escalators down, down to the 6th floor, past the fine china and linens to the Trim-a-Tree department. It's all about Christmas -- ornaments and garland and fragile knick-knacks.

“How about these?” he asks, picking up a box of Christmas cards.

You shake your head, knowing you’ll agree after much searching and a brief debate that is all part of the tradition.

Another tradition: You pick out a Christopher Radko ornament. This year’s is the famous green Marshall Field’s clock. You note somewhat cynically that there are literally piles of them this year -- when people were waiting in line and buying them on eBay for way more than they're worth last year.
Back outside, you walk to Miller’s Pub.

It’s just a few blocks down Wabash past the naked fake hands and necklines in the windows of the "Closed Sundays" diamond shops.

The food at Miller’s Pub is average, but the Christmas decorations are stellar and the folks are friendly.
Full and ready to walk, you head over to the German market at Daly Plaza. It’s jammed.

You check out the giant Christmas tree, Menorah, and Muslim crescent. You realize there’s no Kwanzaa symbol and assume you missed it somehow.

You think about the year that someone stole baby Jesus from the life-size manger. You make sure that the little rascal is safe in his cradle before moving on.

You wander the booths looking at ornaments and doilies and ornaments and Polish glass. You buy a hand-knit hat that you will probably wear only once. You drink mulled wine out of a red mug shaped like a boot.

The crowds are too much, so you reluctantly head back to the car.

And you take a nap during the ride home.
I am listening to: Christmas in Hollywood – Hollywood Undead
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Jolly


Anonymous said...

Very nice. You ALMOST painted a complete picture, but there are a few things you forgot...

The fur protesters.
The protesters who can't accept that Macy's is here, and think that Macy's will change it's name to make them happy.
The Bush protesters.
The Iraq protesters (sometimes intermingled with the above Bush protesters).
The mistreated-prisoners-of-war protesters.
The $2.75 small styrofoam cup of hot chocolate that tastes like Swiss Miss instant.
The $5.50 brat.
And those kids jammin' on their upside down 5 gallon pails.

Ahhhhhhh ;) ... Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas! (take that Walmart!!!)

Mr. Uk