Sunday, December 24, 2006

Faith, Fever, and Christmas Spirit

I have perhaps more than my share of imagination for starters, so a fever acts like steroids on an already well-exercised part of my brain. This past week I have either slept Merlin's sleep of forgetfulness or I have dreamed whole movies. In one morning's nap, I worked out a short story titled "Kamikaze Kid Meets Superboy and No one Lives Happily Ever After." Sadly, now that the fever has passed, only the skeleton of those fevered images remain.

The down side of the fevered state is that the logical part of my brain works erratically and slowly. The only rainy day we have had was somehow the one I decided to ride the red line into town. I thought I was over my cold, and Morris was too kind to tell me how miserable he felt for fear of disappointing me on my Christmas Quest. For several weeks now I have been on a mission to see the Marshall Fields Christmas windows. I don't know why this piece of Christmania stuck so hard in my brain, but once there all sorts of things collected around it. Nostalgia is like that. I remembered stopping by the windows with my parents as part of an idealized Christmas a la Christmas on 34th Street. I remembered fondly the window that had the little automated mannequins ice skating and one in particular twirling on her automated skate with her plastic hands tucked into a fur muff. I think some part of me has wanted a fur muff even through the feminist era and all my years of sensible clothes.

And so in a soaking rain--Morris noted optimistically that at least here the rain is only vertical rather than being driven into you from all angles as in Scotland--we set out for the short walk from the Art Institute to the object of my pilgrimage. I thought I was on State Street and when I did not see Marshall Fields where I thought it should be, I asked another person. I have always found Chicagoans generous in their help and directions and my urgency no doubt made them even more so. I was on Wabash not State, but I could get into Marshall Fields from this side, she assured me. I did not have the heart to say that I didn't want to go in. I just wanted to see the Christmas windows.

And so on through the rain. Morris is getting slower and slower as his cold takes over. We get there and I look at the windows on the corner--conventional Christmas windows. I leave him in a dry spot inside the double doors while I walk the length of the block and around the corner. I see mannequins promoting this or that clothing line. I see an entire window promoting Zambia and two windows frosted over, but nothing like a Christmas window. My heart sinks. I make my way back to collect Morris.

Morris needs a coffee, so we walk through Marshall Fields, which is now sprouting Macys signs in lots of silly, unaesthetic places to get to a coffee shop in the corner. This too seems like an awkward addition. I sit slumped over my stool. In the old days I say to make myself feel worse, all the windows were Christmas windows. In the midst of this fever-nostalgic-rain-soaked reverie still there lurks a small hope that on the other side of the building there is at least one Christmas window.

Morris and I are both tired from the cold, the rain, and the "many shaped too much peopleness" of the city after our rural life. We make our way through the store to the train stop on State street. When we emerge from the store, I look over my shoulder through the clusters of people hugging the windows and there are my Christmas windows! My faith is restored. Even if Morris had the patience to linger long enough for me to see them, I do not need to see them. I just need to know they are there. This year the mannequins are flying with Mary Poppins. I imagine some little girl in the crowd with an overactive imagination who will remember that in some corner of her mind as she grows older. And with that dose of nostalgia, imagination, quest completed, I felt the Christmas spirit swirling around inside me. Merry Christmas.


At 5:35 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

Merry Christmas, landgirl! May your imagination be fevered and your nostalgia ever-fed this coming year!

At 7:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have provided more than our share of rain for the tourists this year.


But I generally don't have to shovel rain so I'm not entirely too broken up about it!

Merry Christmas.

At 4:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your visit to the Marshall Field's (now Macy's)windows this year, Sharon. I went last year to see them since I knew it would be the last year that it was really Field's, and I also knew it might be the last year I lived in the midwest for a while. I spent (quite truthfully) 4 hours in the shoe department; I probably tried on no less than 25 pairs of shoes and left with 3. A beautiful man just kept bringing out pairs of size 11 because he understood that I never have much of a choice of shoes at most stores. I remember that I tried on things I would never wear - fur lined 4 inch clogs most particularly. I also bought 10 boxes of Frango mints that day. It was fun; at the same time, my eyes were quite misty on the way home. My mom took us to Chicago every Christmas to see the windows too, and I even had a white fur muff with a matching coat one year. No girl should really ever be without one or at least the memory of one. I bet you could find one in Dublin on your way home! The last time I saw you was in Chicago - lovely day. Happy New Year!

At 11:45 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Dear Anonymous, thank you for sharing your Marshall Fields store (what if we all just keep calling it that?) I also love the idea of a little white fur muff in all of us. I think once the Midwest has entered into our consciousness it never really leaves us. I suspected that before I left and now I am sure of it. Be assured that wherever you go, you'll take a bit with you.


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