‘A Brooks Tale’
It was the Christmas Holidays.
I loved being off school for over a week! It was, first of all fun, to experience Christmas…with our aluminum Christmas tree…and the red balls that hung on it…but alas…no blue light to illuminate it.
My favorite Christmas toy was Laughing Santa. He was a jolly, little, stuffed fellow…with a crank on his back, that when turned, the most joyful sound of uproarious laughing…emitted…from Santa’s belly.
I had received Santa in my hometown of Chicago…in happier times. We moved from Chicago to Eldorado, Illinois…when I was five years old. Not long after that…Mom and Dad divorced.
We had roast beef for Christmas…it was Mom’s speciality. Also, coffee cake…which was to die for…as my buddy Ron would say.
My aunt Wanda and my cousins, Billy and Brenda, were there. I liked Brenda…she was my babysitter. And, my aunt Guelda, who I swear was Jewish, and Vema, who I did not like, and her husband Ed.
I had asked for a Polaroid camera, called a Big Swinger…as opposed to the Swinger, and what do you think happened…a Christmas Miracle…I received the Big Swinger!
I took a lot of Polaroid photos. They were a big hit with the Christmas crowd.
The day after Christmas, I caught my neighbor Lanny for a ride into town…to see a movie.
Lanny was a few years older than me and he could drive and he could drink.
Lanny told me that he would introduce me to a girl, who was his age, and that, ‘she gives’…I wondered if he meant Green Stamps?
On the way to the Orpheum…I noticed a small bottle that was sitting next to Lanny and I, in the front seat of his car. It had on the label, Peppermint Schnapps.
I asked Lanny if I could have a drink…and he said drink up…but be careful…as that stuff will, ‘knock you on your butt.’
I drank a long swig of the delicious elixir…it was heavenly…and it made me cough.
Next to the bottle of Schnapps was a bottle of vodka. I took a couple of full drinks of that bottle…as well.
Lanny, pulled up to the front of the Orpheum…and he asked if I was alright…I said that I was never better…and I exited his car and felt like I was walking over railroad ties.
Earlier, in the Holiday Season, I had attended a Christmas showing of Mary Poppins at the Orpheum Theatre.
After the Holiday Performance…the Lions’ Club had the most magnificent baskets for each of us…that were full of candy and fruit and small gifts.
I have admired the Lions’ Club ever since.
Mom, extolled…yea commanded…that no one visit her from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. Her reason was that she needed the time to prepare for Christmas.
When I first heard her impassioned plea…I thought that there must be a tremendous workload in the preparation for Christmas Day.
I, could not help but notice that the primary preparation was mental pondering. Mom took a nap each afternoon…and often prior to the nap…she would tell me what was ahead…in preparation for the big day.
It entailed, house cleaning, of which I assisted, and the preparation of the Holiday Feast, and the important, construction of the aluminum Christmas Tree.
Aluminum Christmas Trees…were very popular in the 60’s.
We did not celebrate Thanksgiving…it was the first day for the ultimate preparation…for Christmas!
One Christmas Season…Mom announced that, ‘This Christmas…we are going out for dinner!’
Earl, my stepfather, replied that, ‘June…there will not be any restaurants open on Christmas Day.’
Mom announced, ‘Two Tony’s…will surely be open…and that is where we will go for Christmas Dinner.’
On Christmas Day…we drove to both of the Two Tonys’ Smorgasbords that were in our region…they were closed.
We drove all over; Eldorado, and Harrisburg, and West Frankfort…and more…no restaurant was open.
We finally found…Poor Boy’s Market in Harrisburg…open…at about 6:00 P:M:.
We purchased some hamburger and buns.
Our Christmas Dinner was Hamburgers and french fries…and it was good.