A woman's childhood memories. Full title: Christmas In The City Of The Magic Windows
It's that time of year again--the Christmas season!
The windows of the large department store here in this big city hold various animated scenes--just as they have for years. When I was young I would come here with my parents, brothers, sisters, and a friend brought by each of us. How much fun it was to all crowd into our station wagon for the 75-mile drive here during this magical time of year!
Counting Mama and Daddy, there were 12 of us going from window to window, oohing and aaaahing at the magic that had made ordinary storefront windows become so extraordinary for a season.
We would divide up after that with Daddy and all of the boys going to take in whatever latest action film was playing at the nearest movie theater while Mama would take us girls to watch the Nutcracker Ballet. I saw that every year as I was growing up and never grew tired of it. Perhaps, I'll go to see it again someday, though it wouldn't be the same with Mama and Daddy both gone and my siblings and friends scattered all over the country.
After we got together again, we would head for the open-air ice-rink that was, at this magical time of year, watched over by a tall, brightly-decorated Christmas tree. Some of us were skaters. Other of us were more suited for spectator roles. I was one of the skaters. How wonderful it felt to glide along the ice with the breeze blowing my hair as I caught snowflakes on my tongue! Music from the freshly-seen Nutcracker Suite floated from the rink's sound-system, and I felt like a princess!
The ice-rink is still where it was all those years ago--still where it was when my first serious boyfriend and I came to the city to enjoy it hand-in-hand! I watch couples skating together and see parents with their children and their children's friends enjoying the rink tonight, and it brings back so many memories. I watch all of this from the shadows, and feel a tear trickle down my cheek--a tear that almost freezes on this crisp, cold night.
Soon, it's time to think of going home again.
We all go past the department store to look at the windows once more. The crowd has thinned some, but there are still quite a few others there taking a final look.
Then, we go to where our station wagon is parked, crowd in, and head for home, making one stop at McDonald's for some hot-chocolate loaded with marshmallows.
After that, we ride along, looking at the beautiful lights adorning people's houses and yards. The radio station we're listening to is playing a lot of Christmas music, and we sometimes sing along when a favorite song comes on.
But, soon, we began to get drowsy, and the next thing we know, Mama and Daddy are shaking us awake, telling us that we're home.
We go through all of the motions of dressing for bed while barely being aware of what we're doing, then dream the best of childhood's dreams while tucked into our soft, warm, cozy beds.
While we're sleeping, morning comes, and the smell of a very special breakfast stirs us awake: hotcakes with butter and syrup, sausage links, western omelets, bacon, homemade biscuits with butter and strawberry jam, hash browns, fresh fruit, orange juice, and marshmallow-laden hot chocolate.
Our friends are staying for breakfast, after which we'll play some more until their various parents come to pick them up.
We'll be spending many more wonderful times together, playing in the snow, eating popcorn beside the fireplace, and playing with toys and board games.
School is out until two days after New Year's Day, and we have no homework!
And, in just a few days, it will be Christmas!
All of our relatives are coming to the house for Christmas dinner and to stay well into the evening!
So many years between now and then!
So many things have happened.
I was the only one who moved to the city.
Now, it's Christmas Eve once more.
At one time, I didn't have a clue what was meant by the statement, "We're all just a paycheck away from homelessness."
I haven't told anybody about my current state of affairs yet and will put off doing so for as long as possible, because they have their own lives to worry about.
Somehow, I got myself into this. Somehow, I'll get myself out. . .I hope.
I make another walk past the ice-rink, the theatre, and the magic storefront windows.
All of the shelters are full tonight. I'm hungry, so I look in a dumpster to see if I can find anything edible and come up with a half-eaten bag of pork rinds.
I find an unoccupied grate. This is where I'll sleep tonight.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
This story was originally written back in 2001 for a challenge given in a now-defunct Australian writing site called Written By Me.
The challenge was for the writer to walk in the shoes of another person and tell his/her story in first-person.
Even though I was writing as another person, I also mixed in what I did know about on a personal level, which was warm, fuzzy memories of the Christmas season as I was growing up.
For me, the city of the magic windows was Indianapolis, Indiana with the magic windows being the ones in the downtown L.S. Ayres department store.
For the character in my story, the city was New York City, New York.
The trip to Indianapolis was made from Anderson, while the character in the story and her family lived somewhere in Upstate New York.
She and her folks made the trip with siblings and friends.
As an only child, I experienced this with my folks, cousins, and friends.
In both of our cases we grew up feeling safe and loved.
Although I knew at the time that we were all, as I wrote in the story, "just a paycheck away from homelessness," I didn't even have even the smallest clue that this would be happening to me a dozen years after I wrote this story.
I have decided to use this blog ( "Catharsis: Writing to Survive!" ) to share my personal experiences related to being homeless, starting with this entry: "It Has Been Nearly Four Years..." .
I'm thankful that, during my months of being homeless, I never had to go through what my character did where she had been reduced to sleeping on grates and eating from dumpsters.