Mary From Human Resources Saved the Day

Tree in Walnut Room

Tree in Walnut Room

About ten years ago, Barbara and I started a tradition in our family. Every year at Christmas, we take a trip downtown to have breakfast in the Walnut Room under the big tree. When we started, the Walnut Room belonged to Marshall Field’s Department Store. Their tradition began many years prior. On one of our trips down, we stood in line behind a lady in her thirties with her children. I asked her how long she had been coming to the breakfast. “Since I was five,” she proclaimed. Her tradition began with her mother and aunt bringing her and her cousins.

I was introduced to the tree by Barbara.  She and I made the trip, only to say we did it. Little did we know it would begin a new world for us.

Barb and I began with our granddaughters when the kids were five and three. Barb has been gone for five years, so Peggy and  I have continued the trip with the kids. We are up to a party of twelve when we go.

A week ago, we left the house at seven a.m  to drive downtown. I like to get an early start, because the line to get into the Walnut Room is sometimes very long. We have waited for as long as an hour to get to the elevator then another hour to be seated. The temperature was eleven degrees. The wind was heavy, but it was sunny.  We parked in the Grant Park underground near Randolph Street. I expected to use the Pedway to walk underground to keep out of the cold. It was closed. Why? Probably to keep the homeless from squating and making the Pedway their home.

A few years ago, Macy’s Department Store bought Marshall Field’s . Luckily, Macy’s decided to keep the Walnut Room tradition alive, but they made changes.  Nevertheless it was our tradition, so we felt good that they kept the breakfast going.

On Saturday, we called Macy’s to check the hours. They told us the doors open at eight a.m. and they begin serving at nine. It was not unusual to have to stand in line on State Street just to get into the store at the opening hour.

We arrived at seven forty-five in a severe wind chill which had all of us shivering and wanting to get out of the cold. The Randolph Street  door was still closed, so we ventured around the building to the State Street side to find another entrance.  State Street doors were closed so we wrapped around the corner to the Washington side.  Also closed.  Several more people joined us. The line began to form.  None of the doors were open. The crowd began to mumble. We were early, so I thought nothing of it. We walked back to the Randolph Street entrance. It was now eight o’clock and it was still closed. The kids were really cold, as was I. We spotted several people entering the employees entrance. My son Mike asked if they would open the door and let us in. The Associate said they would check with Security. Nothing happened. Mike kept asking each Associate passing through to see if they could have some Christmas Spirit and to get the doors opened. Nothing happened. In fact, no one knew what the heck we were talking about. Nor did they care. 

Finaly, a nice blond haired lady came through. Mike pleaded with her in his finest sympathetic tone. She also said she would check with Security. It was about eight thirty when she came back and asked us to enter into the Associates lobby. By now there was a crowd waiting. We crammed the room. She asked us to move into the store. We were met by a Security person who made sure we didn’t advance any further. Our blond haired lady stayed with us until security allowed us to move toward the elevators.

Mike thanked the blond haired lady and learned her name was Mary.  She worked in Human Resources. Macy’s has one associate with a heart and some Christmas Spirit. She saved our day. I failed to say, that before she arrived I was ready too walk without ever entering another macy’s store again.    

We were seated immediatley, and an associate took our orders. The big tree is outstanding this year. Decorated with toys, red lights, and ornaments by FAO Schwartz . I gave it a ten on the scale of beautiful. Last year the tree ranked  a three on my scale. 

The meal was cold, even though we were there early and the room was not very crowded. The kids didn’t seem to mind, and the tradition lives on. Grumpa Joe, on the other hand is seriously thinking of beginning a new tradition next year. The new one will exclude the big store from New York. I really don’t think Macy’s is excited about taking this Chicago tradition seriously. Their people were not in sync with the operation, the kitchen served mediocre food that was cold, and the fairy princess was late getting there.  I forgot to explain that the fairy princess is one of the best parts of the morning for the kids. She comes around and talks to them and tells them to make a wish as she sprinkles fairy dust on their heads. Even the old man makes a wish.

Chicago Christmas Tree-2008

Chicago Christmas Tree-2008

After breakfast, the group trudges down to Daley Plaza to see the City of Chicago Christmas Tree. It is also a marvelous tree this year. One of the best.  It was still too cold to lolly gag around the plaza waiting for the Kris Kindle market to open, so we headed back to the car. We arrived home by twelve thirty.

I deliberately took a week to write about this day. I wanted time to cool my anger and warm my body. It would have been an angrier rant had I written it when we arrived home.

It was still a warm and fuzzy moment, and the tradition lives on, for now.

One Response

  1. Regardless of where we end up, we still look forward to our Christmas adventure with you. We all survived, and had a great time as usual. This will just be another story to tell at future events….”remember that one year we were locked out…”. Reminds me of the Visa card commercial: “Freezing cold temperatures, angry crowds, yearly Christmas breakfast excursion, PRICELESS!!”

    mj

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