The Walnut Room at Marshall Field, now Macy’s. (Photo by John W. Iwanski/CC BY-NC 2.0)

What lovely times to remember! Most of us have sweet memories of the holiday season. It’s the time of year when we especially focus on helping others, sharing our good fortune, and being generous of spirit. 

I have a delightful childhood memory of a special Christmas treat offered by “the Eagles Lodge” in Melrose Park. My folks and I lived in two rooms at the back of our store on the first floor of the Eagles’ building. Every Christmas, the children of Eagle members and the neighborhood kids, of which I was one, were invited to their annual
holiday party. We saw Santa, whom I still remember as having a heavy Italian accent. We were each gifted with a coloring book and a box of four crayons that I cherished. We were also treated to delicious hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows on top and a sugary Santa-decorated cookie. 

At 97, I still salivate recalling this yummy treat!

At Christmas time, oh so many years later, my husband and I entertained our children at the holidays. We’d travel by el downtown to visit Santa at the Marshall Field store. The children were each given attractive paper packets of children’s stories. We would then go to the toy department, which was pure excitement for the family. My children especially enjoyed the electric train exhibits, where there was a train caboose to walk through and many little masterpieces of trains surrounding made-up villages. 

Then we scurried off to the Walnut Room to sit near the Christmas tree and have hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows on top. I relished this as much as my children did. Before making our way home, we’d always stop to marvel at the magnificent storytelling scenes in the downtown window displays.

“Hectic” was the word for our holiday scene at home. It meant constant kitchen duty with noise, splashes and spills, and sometimes even broken dishes by my young children and those of our houseguests. One cousin even brought their big dog with them one year. We gave it repetitious warnings not to get too close to the tree, and scolded him when he looked much too lovingly at it. There was always the challenge of putting gifts and toys together, even though we followed the ostensibly “easy” instructions. For some reason or other, we always had left-over screws, nuts, and bolts.

Then came the clean-up after gift-giving. Paper was strewn everywhere; there was always something missing, and pine needles were well-embedded in the carpet. 

That said, what joy! It was certainly worth the exhaustion that followed.

I hope your memories are sweet and that you and yours continue to make sweet memories in the years to come.

Harriet Hausman is a longtime River Forest resident.

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