A Very Modern Christmas Tree

Macy's Chicago 2014 Christmas Tree

Macy’s Chicago 2014 Christmas Tree

One of the more recent traditions we have as a family is to eat breakfast under the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room at Macy’s in downtown Chicago. We had a three-year hiatus, and I missed going. The disruption occurred when my son and his family moved out-of-town. It made the venture less exciting. This year, however, my daughter told me my youngest grand-daughter, asked why we don’t do it anymore. Well, we couldn’t have that, so we planned it, and the bunch of us crowded into her family van and off we rode to the Loop.

Since Peggy and I don’t like walking in the cold, we found a parking garage immediately across the street from the Macy’s Randolph Street entrance. We arrived at eight o’clock just as that door opened, or so we thought. Nevertheless, we hustled to the elevator to the seventh floor. As we walked through the store with its bland decor we passed a sea of designer handbags. I named to the canyon of bags. None of them are affordable in my candid opinion. I saw a big sign announcing a twenty-five percent mark down sale. The bag, on sale, sported  a three hundred and eighty dollar tag. We made it to the elevator without buying a single purse, there was no line. The elevator doors opened on seven and we saw a line at the entrance to the Walnut Room. Granted, it wasn’t the sometimes serpentine line like when visiting Disney World, but it was a line. So much for the doors open at eight. We were about fourth, and led to seats immediately, although not under the tree, but rather away from the tree right next to the buffet. My emotions wrestled with would I rather be under the tree or next to the food, the food won out.

The buffet was unexciting, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, French toast, fresh fruit compote, a yogurty thing with muesli, and muffins. It was a filling station buffet, certainly not up to Macy’s image and quality. In years past, we ordered from a limited menu of some really nice, and creative breakfast foods.

One feature of the breakfast is the Fairy Princess who works the room looking for wee kids to amaze. We were about to leave when she finally appeared and asked my eleven year old Jenna Rose if she wanted a wish granted. “Yess”, she answered shyly. The Fairy Princess waved a magic wand around Jenna’s head and sprinkled fairy dust on her. Fairy Princess then asked Jenna, “What did you wish?”  Jenna replied “It is a secret.” My sixteen year old grandson, Jenna’s brother debated about whether he should take a nap or hit on the Princess. He caught his mother’s look and decided a nap was in order, but he couldn’t because we all got up to leave.

Jenna Gets Her Wish

Jenna Gets Her Wish

We viewed the tree from the eighth floor and took pictures before exiting for the next adventure, to view the City of Chicago Christmas tree. Before going for the car we did the obligatory window walk to see what Macy’s had done for Christmas this year. In past years, we couldn’t get near the windows without some weaseling through the crowds. It was different this year, we were able to walk right past the windows without anyone obscuring the view. Where are all the shoppers? There were none.

My Son-in-law Jeff was about to put money into the machine to retrieve the van when I ordered him to stop, “this is my pleasure,” I said. I whipped out a twenty-dollar bill fully expecting change, but the machine was silent. The info screen said it wanted another sixteen dollars, what? I guess that is the cost I must pay for parking at the front door. That offsets the deal I got from Macy’s who charged me a child rate for my grandson’s meal. He ate enough for three adults.

We found the Daley Plaza to view the city tree. As usual, it is a live tree forty-five feet in height and nicely decorated. They used mini lights this year. What a bunch of jerks they are, don’t they know that a tree of this height needs huge lights to stay in scale? The mini lights were all but invisible. Oh well, a dull tree for a dull town.

Watch the tree and see what it does.

The Gift-Part 5-Reminiscing

The Gift-Part 5-Reminiscing

The scoot home took a long time, and Morty deliberately kept Skye out of hyper-drive. He drove slowly to keep the little tree from tearing off. They talked as he drove.

“The farmer planted me as a seed eight years ago. I became a sapling quickly, and was transplanted into a new field.”

Connie jabbered away as Morty drove.

“Farmer Jim re-planted me again when I reached sapling stage. He put me into the field where his great, great, great, great-grandfather grew up. I went thirsty during the drought, and the hot summer nearly fried my needles. I liked winter best. I loved when the snow covered my boughs and they drooped to the ground.”

“I’ve been a Guardian Angel since the beginning of time,” said Morty. “My duty is to watch over Brad. I love watching kids the best.”

“My favorite job is to take care of birds. The cardinals and chickadees picked me this year. They built their nests deep in my boughs to hide it from predators.  I couldn’t believe how many trips they made with string, and twigs from all over the farm. Red Cardinal and his wife Rosy brought the pieces one by one. Rosy wove them into place, and pasted it all together with mud from the pond.”

“I loved to watch the Cardinals fly back and forth to feed their babies. They slept between meals, but made a lot of noise when they woke up. The kids chirped loudly until a parent came with food. One day, a cat came into my field. Rosy covered the nest with her body, and spread her wings to hide them. Red buzzed the cats’ ears to get his attention away from the babies. I dropped my boughs over the nest to give them more protection. Everything became very still while the cat was there. All the trees around me watched him stalk; his head was low, and his shoulders in a crouch. After what seemed like an eternity of stillness, the cat finally wandered off.”

Morty arrived home after dark. He untied Connie’s branches and set him upright into a bucket of water.

“Tomorrow,” he said, “I will place you into a tree stand, and dress you for the birthday party. Now it is time for all of us to rest.”

To be continued . . .

The Gift-Part 2-Morty Pops the Question

Farmer Jim stopped in the field he was harvesting. Morty hopped off with the saw in his hand, and began to search.

My tree has to be perfect, he thought. It has to be shapely, and full, with branches all around. It cannot be too big because my room is small. Morty wandered through the rows of trees. Most of them were already five to six feet tall. Many had bare spots, and deformed branches. With so many trees, picking the right one was not easy.

“They all looked perfect from the air,” he said out loud. “They looked beautiful, but at ground level, they all have defects.”

He stopped in front of a Blue Spruce to ask for help.

“Please help me find the tree I need,” he said to a tree.  “I want one that is as tall as I am, but it can’t be too wide. My tree Has to have be shaped like a cone without bare spots. ”

“I was exactly like that three years ago.”

“So was I,” answered another spruce.

Morty kept walking up and down row after row of trees. He finally stopped in front of a very tall Balsam tree.

“Can you help me?”

“What do you want?

“I’m looking for the perfect tree to give Jesus for Christmas.”

“I can see the tree you want from here. Follow this road next to me. Count off twenty rows, turn left, and count another five trees. There, in the center of a small clearing you will find the tree you want.”

“Thanks,” said Morty. He took the Balsam’s directions, and counted as he walked. When he reached number twenty, he turned left and counted five more. There, in the center of a small clearing stood a beautiful blue-green spruce tree.  It was perfect.

I can’t believe it, he thought. Morty was speechless. He walked around the tree, looking for bare spots; there were none.

“It is as tall as I am, and it is shaped like a perfect cone.” He circled the tree over, and over, looking, and thinking, this tree will make a perfect present for Jesus. He examined the tree from all angles. He couldn’t find a single flaw.

He finally broke his silence, and spoke.

“Hi, I’m Morty Angel, would you like to be my gift to Baby Jesus?”

The Gift, Chapter One-Tree Farm

THE GIFT-Chapter One-Tree Farm

“There is the farm,” said Morty to himself. “Look at all those trees.”

He came to the sign: Covert Tree Farm, Christmas Trees for Sale. Morty slowed Sky-scooter, and made a sharp right turn into the opening between the trees. The gravel drive wound through a grove of spruce trees. The tall trees shaded the forest floor, and kept it dark.  Occasionally, a bird flitted from tree to tree and sang a sweet song. A beam of sunshine peeked through. God is shining a spotlight on me he thought. The ferns under the spotlight were lime green surrounded by dark green in the shade.

“These twists and turns are fun,” he said to Sky. He talked to his scooter whenever he was alone. Morty steered through forest leaning one way, then the other. His curl swayed from side to side. He was anxious to find the perfect present for his Boss. An opening of bright light led into the meadow where the farmer lived.

He spotted the sign for parking, and another sign on the barn stated rules for cutting Christmas trees.

1. Cut the tree at the ground. Do not cut in the middle.

2. Use only the saw provided.

3. Bring your tree to the barn for wrapping.

4. Trees are $8.00 per foot.

Morty grabbed a saw and jumped onto the hay wagon behind the tractor. A cow mooed, and the horse whinnied in the barn. Chickens wandered all around the barnyard pecking for seed. He sat and looked around while he waited for the farmer.

Gosh, look at all those trees. They surround the entire pasture as far as I can see. He daydreamed while he sat waiting.

Farmer Jim raises trees. He sells some at Christmas, and takes the large ones to the lumber mill in the town. He plants replacement trees to keep the forest alive. It takes fifty years to grow a tree big enough to sell for lumber, and twelve years to grow a tree tall enough for Christmas.

Morty sat staring at the trees and talking to himself. I love coming to the tree farm. It is fun to explore the woods. The forest is beautiful, peaceful, quiet, and majestic. I talk to them and they talk to me. When we are alone I hug them.

Farmer Jim had a secret grove of old trees. He never cut these trees nor did his father, grandfather, or great-grandfather. His great-grandfather told him that they were there when he came to the farm in 1875. Some of them were two hundred feet tall. Morty discovered the grove last year, and fell in love with the old trees. His favorite was over two hundred years old. It lived through much of the history of our country. The big tree was a teenager when the very first settlers moved to the valley from the east.

I have to find a tree to give to baby Jesus on his birthday. I will invite my friends to help decorate, and make it special. The hay wagon jerked forward, and broke his thoughts. He was on his way to find the perfect tree.

A Three Pour Evening

A bottle of Argentina Malbec

A bottle of Argentina Malbec (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This day has been interesting. Yesterday, I discovered a cabinet on the wall of my garage falling down. The contents were too heavy for it and the fasteners began pulling out of the wall. Although, I didn’t want to tackle the job, I did. I removed the cabinet before it fell, and dragged it down to my basement workshop. There, I added new wood to reinforce the weak spots. Then I dragged the cabinet back upstairs and out to the garage. The plan was to remove the sister cabinet and to rework it before it too became a problem. A closer look at the sister cabinet changed my plan. It was very secure and already strengthened. I added more wood to it while it stayed in place. I also added a cleat under the cabinet to give it more foundation. There is no way I want to have to do this again. I finished the job, cleaned up the work site, put away my tools, and headed for supper, and some serious pain killing beverage.

The wine of choice this evening is Malbec from Argentina. I enjoyed a nice pour while heating my frozen pepper steak and rice dinner. Another pour with dinner, and a third with my dessert of pumpkin pie. By now my mind was somewhat numb, and I felt no pain. I donned my heavy jacket and left the house for a walk in the darkness, except it wasn’t dark. My neighbors have decorated their yards with hundreds of mini-lights on their trees, shrubs, gutters, and houses. It was not dark, it was beautiful.

I didn’t walk fast tonight, I kind of stumbled along. The sidewalks were somewhat uneven and I stumbled from side to side in a jerky rapid fashion. Kind of like I was trying to keep myself from falling down. I needed to make a sudden fast moves to stay upright.

The streets of my neighborhood seemed magical. A few years ago, the President of the local Homeowners Association talked everyone into decorating their parkway trees with the same colors, green lights on the tree trunks and white lights on the branches. The sight of a long curvy street lined with trees glowing in green and white lights is absolutely beautiful. The tradition continues and only those houses that are empty or those that are newly occupied do not follow the formula. They are obvious since they are dark and break the chain of diamonds glistening in the night air.

A full moon accompanied by cold crisp air added to the beauty of the evening by contributing a special aura to the electrical lights. By the end the walk my steps were less tenuous and my side to side wandering narrowed to a smooth slightly wavy line.

Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

This post is excerpted from “Jun-e-or” a book of my “Recollections of Life in the 1940’s and 50’s,” available from Amazon.com

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There is something about winter that sets me into recalling times from the past. In early 2010 I posted several stories about my Grampa Jim.  This year, I will do the same. Here is the first of a series.

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Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

Every summer, Dad packed us up and took us to the farm in Michigan to live with Mom’s dad Grampa. That twenty-acre spread like seemed a vast wilderness at the time. Gramps’s house was set back from the road and trees lined each side of the drive giving the feel of going through a tunnel. Three tall cedar trees stood in a row with two pear trees next to the ditch. They hid the house from the road.

The front door faced the road, and served to let a breeze flow through the house. Gramps never did finish building the front steps. The main entrance was from the side door facing the yard at the end of the drive. A huge willow tree, opposite the living room window, filled the side yard with shade. The weeping boughs nearly touched the ground, and my arms reached less than half way around its trunk. A few feet away stood a very mature mulberry tree that appeared tiny next to the willow

In early summer, the birds came to eat mulberries.  I climbed the low branches and sat in the tree with them. Mom knew what I was doing because my lips and hands were purple. The low branches were easy to climb, not like the tall willow whose first branch was many feet above my head. Dad used a ladder to climb up to that branch to make us a swing from a recycled tire from his 1929 Buick

The outhouse stood across the yard from the mulberry. Grampa Jim didn’t have running water, nor a bathtub or toilet. The outhouse was the third point on a trapezoidal yard formed by the side door, and the two trees.

Grampa Jim had a unique set of lawn furniture sliced from the trunk of a huge tree.  The Table was twenty-four inches in diameter, and just as tall.  The chairs were slightly smaller in diameter and were cut to form a seat with a backrest. The set was old, and gray with no signs of bark on the wood.

I spent endless hours playing on, and around that furniture. Sometimes, I sat on a chair and watched the big black ants run crazy patterns all over the table. Often, I tried counting the rings, but got lost in the weathered and worn grooves of the cut surface.

On the very hot listless days of summer, Grampa Jim, and his buddy Mr. Toth sat on the tree furniture in the shade drinking a beer. They chatted and smoked; Grampa dragged a hand rolled cigarette of Bull Durham while his friend puffed a corncob pipe filled with Prince Albert. Often, I sat with them and listened. They spoke in Hungarian, and I did not recognize many of their words, but I understood the gist of their thoughts.

I wondered then, and I still do now, if the table and chairs all came from one tree.  If they did, the tree had to be magnificent. I asked myself, how tall was that tree? How old was it? Why was it cut down? Did it fall down, or did it die of natural causes? All I know is that I loved sitting and playing on that furniture.

The Gift (A serial, part 5)

The Gift (A serial, Part 5)

The scoot home took a long time because the Covert farm was a long way from the town where Morty lived. He deliberately kept Skye out of hyper-drive, and drove slowly to keep the little tree from tearing off. They talked as he drove. Connie told him about when he was a seed, and grew quickly into a sapling. Farmer Jim re-planted him into the field where his great, great, great, great-grandfather grew up. He survived a drought, the heat of summer, and cold winters. When it snowed, his limbs sagged to the ground.

Connie’s favorite job was to host families of birds. The cardinals and chickadees picked his boughs to build their nests. They collected material from all over the farm. Red Cardinal, and his wife Rosy made hundreds of trips to the tree. Red brought pieces thread, and tiny twigs, one by one, and Rosy wove them into place. She went to the pond to make mud to hold it all together. They picked a spot about half way up Connie’s trunk in a spot that hid the nest from view.

Connie told Morty how he loved to watch the cardinals flying back and forth to feed their babies. The babies slept between meals. They chirped loudly when their parents came with food. Once a cat came into the field near Connie. Rosy covered the nest with her body, and spread her wings to hide her chicks.

Red buzzed the cat to get its attention away from the babies. Connie dropped his boughs over the nest to give the birds more protection. They all sat very still while the cat was there. All the trees in the field watched in deadly silence as the cat stalked with his head low, and his shoulders in a hunting crouch. After what seemed like an eternity of stillness and quiet, the cat finally wandered off in another direction.

Morty arrived home after dark. He untied Connie’s branches and set him upright into a bucket of water.

“Tomorrow,” he said, “I will place you into a tree stand, and dress you for the birthday party. Now it is time for all of us to rest.”

To be continued. . . .

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