Christmas 1957

Several inches of snow lay upon the ground in the Windy City. The temperature was 5 degrees and every crack and crevice of the apartment that Neva J. and Bill lived in blew cold air into their little home. The streets of the magnificent city were festooned with splendid Christmas decorations. There were Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and snowmen and Christmas Trees. At night the Christmas lights showed so bright that it appeared to still be the day. Neva J.’s sisters were making the trip from Southern Illinois to Chicago to see their Baby Sister and Junior…and the new Baby…Billy B. Neva J. had gone to Woolworth Drug Store and purchased a resplendent Aluminum Christmas Tree…which was all the rage in 1957. Along with the Christmas Tree she bought the electric color wheel to rotate and shine its many colors onto the shiny aluminum. Billy B. would be two months old Christmas Eve. Guelda and Wanda and Vema had all purchase gifts for the new nephew. Wanda did not drive and Guelda and Vema had never driven in Chicago…so they took the train…and Junior was going to meet them at the Train Station. When they departed from the six-hour train ride…there was Junior dressed as Santa Claus. ‘He was adorned from his head to his foot…but instead of a pipe held tightly in his teeth’…he had a Pall Mall Cigarette. The apartment had a hideaway bed that pulled down from its covey in the living room wall. There was also a nice sectional couch that was covered in plastic from top to bottom. Guelda and Wanda would sleep on the pull-down-wall-bed…and Vema would sleep on the sectional.

Vema asked Junior how he protected himself and Neva J. and Baby Billy B. in such a dangerous city. Junior pulled back his red coat and revealed a pistol. Wanda and Guelda…upon inspection of the hideaway bed announced that they could not sleep on it…as it did not have the proper lumbar support. Vema told Neva J. that she was looking a little heavy and that she had better get to work on her weight…or she would be a big as a barn. Then…Vema inquired why Billy B. was not talking…yet? Junior left the loving sisters and proceeded to continue decorating the apartment…as he took Christmas…very seriously. Neva J. announced that they were all going to go to the movies on Maxwell Street…and see It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The Orpheum Theatre on Maxwell played the Holiday Classic each Christmas Season…on December 24th. The movie was intended to remind those viewing it that although they had worries and cares…they still had wonderful lives.

Maxwell Street was vibrant with the strobing lights of the theatres and the Christmas Decorations and the many vendors of goods…Holiday and other goods….that Maxwell is famous for. Just at the door of the Theatre was an old gentleman who was selling what he called…Laughing Santas…and Neva J. bought one for Baby Billy B. When Billy B. saw his Christmas Eve Gift…he smiled and giggled and wiggled his toes. As the movie began…Wanda said that her feet hurt. Vema noted that the ticket price of fifty cents was outrageous…and Guelda commented that she had seen the movie several times before when she lived in St. Louis. Junior said, ‘Ladies…you did not pay for the tickets…I did,’ and the three looked at him as if he came from another world… When the part came where Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey wished that he had never been born…Neva J…secretly wished the same for her magpie sisters…who with her best efforts…she could never please…

Junior and Neva J. and their Baby Billy B….walked out of the Orpheum with their hearts filled with Holiday Cheer and their profound hope for the future. Before taking the taxi back to their lovely decorated apartment…they had a cup of Apple Cider at a vendor’s kiosk. Neva J. thought for a moment that something seemed to be missing…and then she laughed to herself and knew that this could not be true…as she was so happy…

Santa…laughed from inside his box…

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