The time of year that is full of delicious odors and confections is here!
The Brooks family, my chapter at least, began in Chicago. Permanently imprinted on my 62 year old brain is our visit to the city to watch the release of the Disney favorite, Lady and the Tramp. It was during the holiday season and the sites and sounds of the yuletide are as real to me now…as they were on that cold afternoon.
There was the massive theatre and a throng of holiday shoppers and the bright strobing lights of the marque. There was a Salvation Army soldier, with his kettle, at the front entrance and as he rang his bell, I thought that I am witnessing something special. The theatre was resplendent with poinsettias and Christmas Trees in the lobby along with free candy canes and popcorn balls being given to all of the movie goers as they made their way into the cavernous auditorium. It seemed that I had left my construct of reality, living in the suburb of Sauk Village and had entered a heightened state of Christmas Bliss!
Laughing Santa was a Christmas tradition in Chicago. He as a little stuffed Santa with a crank on his back, whereby when it was turned…created the most effusive and compelling Santa Laugh that I have ever heard….and I hear it to this day!
Mom’s Christmas speciality was coffee cake. It is difficult to describe the pure nirvana of taste and texture that this marvelous baked good created in the mouth of the recipient! The cakes were long vertical affairs with an abundance of delicious jams in their center and perfect white icing on the top!
It took Mom most of the day to make her coffee cake. She only made it once a year, Christmas! As she labored her dark eyes gleamed and she smiled a knowing and wicked smile! Mom understood how delicious that her special holiday treat, was.
Christmas day, there was a massive Christmas Tree, to a 3 year old, erected in our living room. There was Burl Ives singing, ‘Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,’ and the Christmas episode of I Love Lucy, and a palpable feeling of warmth and love and the endless possibilities of the future that stretched, endlessly, before our little family.
We moved to Eldorado, Illinois that is located in the deep southern part of the state. Mom and dad were having marital problems and soon after our move they separated and divorced. Eldorado was the home of my mom’s mom, Grandma Askew, and her sisters, Guelda, and Vema, and Wanda.
Christmas began to be celebrated at Grandma Askew’s. Grandmas Askew was a woman of deep christian faith, who read her Bible on a daily basis. Our first Christmas in Eldorado, I experienced sensory overload. Aunt Wanda, who’s children were, Billy and Brenda, brought a white and sweet confection called divinity, and it was sublime!
We moved, several times, during our first years in Eldorado. My favorite residence had a long and enclosed front porch that I recall smelling a unique and profoundly Christmas odor in…during the holiday season…and I have searched for that unique fragrance ever since!
After a year or two of Christmas celebrations in Eldorado, mom began to make homemade fudge. It would melt in your mouth! Some years it was either the homemade fudge or the coffee cake…while during the good years….we had both!
For several years, in Eldorado, we took to the aluminum Christmas Tree with the turning light wheel that when pointed toward the shiny tree caused it to change colors as the slow rotation of the wheel occurred. You did not place lights on the aluminum Christmas Tree….the lights were the colored rotating wheel.
One special Christmas, I received the Big Swinger Polaroid camera. The Swinger camera first took life as a small white camera that printed a developed photo of whatever the photographer had snapped in about two minutes. The photo emerged from the front of the camera, and had to have a top cover removed from the image and then the process of waving it back and forth to aid in the developing fluid drying. After the picture had clearly come into view…you had to apply, fixative, to the image to ensure that it did not fade.
I received the Big Swinger, which was larger than the Swinger and was Grey rather than white. It took a larger photo than that original Swinger! I took it on a school trip when I was in the 6th grade, to New Harmony, Indiana…and snapped a lot of Big Swinger Polaroids…which I have to this day!
A little bird told me…that I may be receiving a Polaroid One Shot…for Christmas. More instant photos are on the way!