Thursday, December 11, 2008

Field Trip - Christmas in the City - Part One

I'm very excited that you're able to come along with me and my friends on a trip into Chicago to experience Christmas in the city.

As I mentioned yesterday the weather was not the best. It was cold and rainy when we left from the rural town of Elburn. It's the end of the commuter line that head directly west out of the city. It's about 50 miles and takes over an hour.

When we arrived at the train station we gathered in front of the lower level shops to devise a game plan. Walking to Marshall Field's Macy's on State Street was out of the question because of the rain. There were eight of us in the group. We split up into two cabs and met up again at the State Street entrance to Macy's.


I love the giant trumpets that hang over the sidewalk. Even the entrance to the subway is decorated. It was very wet and gloomy.


We arrived just before the store opened so that we could get a place in line for lunch under the tree in the famous Walnut Room. While we waited I ran around to several of the windows to take photos of the famous decorations. Unfortunately this was the first of many disappointments. I suppose at this point I need to explain a few things about Marshall Fields and the tradition of Christmas lunch under the tree. Many generations of women, including mothers, daughters and friends have made the trek into the city to spend the day shopping and enjoying the decorations and festive atmosphere of Chicago at Christmas. We all have wonderful memories of shopping at Field's. My mom and I shopped the fabric department in 1965 for the pink peau de soie for my prom dress. Generations of women chose their bridal gowns and registered for their good china at Field's.

When Macy's purchased Field's we all sensed that everything would change. I don't think that Macy's CEO understood the strong cultural ties that Chicagoans had with this iconic retailer and we were incensed when he made statements to the effect that we'd have to "get over it." That was fuel on the fire.

The high point of the visit to Field's was always peering in the wonderful Christmas display windows. They were magical spaces with animated figurines based on themes from stories such as Snow White. Click on the links to the previous years as well, to see the windows based on Harry Potter and The Night Before Christmas. Do you see how magical they were?

Now look at this.


These are the Chicago Macy's windows. They were tiny and nothing moved except the television screen behind the penguins. I tried to tell myself that in this economy everyone must cut back but this evening on TV I saw some type of advertisement about the fabulous and magical Christmas windows at Macy's in New York. Yeah, those Christmas windows. The ones we used to have. Go to You Tube and check out the New York windows 2008 and you'll see what I mean.


The store opened and we gathered the troops for our trip up to the Walnut Room on the 7th floor.


We rode the escalators and were happy to see that the old building looked pretty good for her age.


We were surprised that there was virtually no line. Usually there are literally hundreds of people waiting. Normally beepers are used to control the crowds. We couldn't decide whether it was because of the weather or the fact that we arrived early. Since most of us had skipped breakfast we chose to be seated and have an early lunch. We were ushered to front row seats under the tree.


We were NOT feeling the love and instead of drinking the Macy's Kool-Aid we decided to order Egg Nog Brandy Alexander's. Yep ...... at 10:15 a.m.!


My friends are looking over the menu, and yes, the tree is that big!


It's a good thing I had some brandy under my belt because the meal was the next big Macy's disappointment. The famous Chicken Pot Pie has been reduced to a ridiculous presentation that includes one skimpy ladle of obviously canned product topped with two cold triangles of puff pastry as dry as index cards. Another Brandy Alexander please.

Madeline was sitting under the tree.


The special Wish Fairy came around and granted us each a wish and sprinkled us with fairy dust. Can you guess what my wish was? I can't tell but it might have involved a very rich sugar daddy who wants to buy a large retail chain and return it to it's former glory. Maybe I'd wish for a rich cousin of that sugar daddy to reinstate Bon Marche also.

Thankfully the room is still very beautiful with it's dark wood paneling and classic details.


Nothing says Chicago like a tree covered with Vienna Beef hot dogs and deep dish pizza.


I've thought about this experience all day and what is most upsetting is that the changes have meant that we can't recreate the wonderful memories for our daughters and granddaughters that we shared with our mother's and grandmother's. Nothing is as permanent as change, but I'm struggling to find a way to create a memory as meaningful as those provided by the tradition of Christmas at Marshall Field's.

TOMORROW: We're going to walk over to Daley Plaza and visit the German Cristkindlemarket.


Heidi said...

I am so sorry that you were so disapointed Sue! There are some things that just cant be replaced and special memories of Christmas is one of them.
*hands Sue another Alexander*

Becky said...

I so know what you mean. I was thinking about some things that I would love to share with my granddaughters, but telling about them just isn't the same.....even pictures won't do it. The sounds, smells, everything that made it such a wonderful time need to be there. I guess we have to put on our thinking caps and find something else....but nothing around now is "special"....just "technical"!! Becky

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Disappointment is no fun. Glad that you gals knew just how to make the best of things with that 10:15 am Eggnog. As you were sharing those window displays, I was oohhing and ahhhing. My local mall has had the same Audobon Society taxidermied animals on display for the last thirty years. I swear that I can see the fleas flying as an extra bonus. :D

What a lovely group of friends you have, Suzanne. I hope that together you will come up with a new tradition that will take the sting of losing Marshall Field's away. Perhaps a trip to NYC???!!!

Rue said...

I'm so sorry Suzanne. I sort of know how you feel. A lot of the restaurants and stores that I grew up with are gone now. I hate change and I especially hate it, when it's not for the better. I hope you get that sugar daddy ;)

I love your chandelier and the fact that you have a pink dining room and living room :)

Oh and I'm going to email you with the answer to your question. You never know who is out there lurking.


Paula Bauer said...

So sorry to hear the trip was disappointing on so many levels.
Loss of tradition is one of the hardest things to cope with. Traditions lend continuity to our lives.

And the theft of the Field's windows for the NY store is beyond belief! (The infamous Chicago corruption goes deep - looks like a pay-off to me!)

Maybe you can have the Feds look into it while they're cleaning up everything else?

Paula Bauer said...

Check your email!

Chris said...

Suzanne, that just stinks! Makes me want to have a Brandy Alexander Egg Nog in sympathy.

Don't get me started on the "theft" of our Holiday traditions!


Anonymous said...

Yes -- change is hard. Here in Detroit, I'm reminded of how things have changed since my mom took me to Hudson's (now Macy's) and how, back then, the windows were transformed into Fairy Land. Pure magic.

That said, I did enjoy your photos. And speaking of change, my only child lives and works in Chicago now, and this is his first holiday away from home, living on his own. So it's nice to see what he must be seeing as he walks through your/his city at holiday time. Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

so sorrry for your blue day ! The
Rike's animated windows in Dayton are
long gone, too... By the way you or
The Farmer would be a worthy replacement for US senator!!! Somewhere there is Joy to the World
in all this... best wishes from Ohio!

PatQ said...

I miss the old Fields too. But I'm sure you had a good time with all your friends.

Janice Lynne Lundy said...

I'm learning not to work myself up with expectations anymore because of the exact reasons you post here. "The times they are 'changin'" as Bob Dylan sang, and they always will ... Best to not get too hooked into the way things are, I say. Being flexible is key.

Despite your disappointment, I found great joy in viewing your photos. It took me back to the 80's when I took my two toddlers to Marshall Fields in Chicago every year.

It was a glorious annual event and we rode the train down from Michigan. We lunched in the Walnut Room, perused the windows, and shopped the store, but the highlight was always Santa Claus. The ambience so real, Santa so authentic and warm, that my son and daughter thought the only "real" Santa was at MF in Chicago! All others were only "helper Santas." Poor imitations.

Why? Because one year, Santa wisely called my kids by name. (A helper got their names from me before they entered the room.) And Santa told my 4-year-old son that if hoped to get his stocking filled, he had to brush his teeth more often. The man in the red suit winked at me and my son blushed from head to toe, completely baffled how Santa knew that he hated to brush his teeth.

Wonderful and treasured memories, for sure! May this trip finding you making many more.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

What a shame...truly. Can they not see what they took away from the Christmas experience?

Lucy said...

There are two cities I'd like two see at Christmas time....New York and Chicago. Maybe someday. They both just seem to say Christmas!

lifeinredshoes said...


Anonymous said...

Sorry for your let down. Tomorrow is another day. Tooooomorrrow, tooomorrow, I love ya tomorrow, you're only a day away. The photos were fabulous and the links too.

Arleen said...

Christmastime in a big city is so stunning and magical in its grand scale. I live in the SF Bay Area and don't get to San Francisco every year, but your photographs have inspired me to make it a tradition. Thanks so very much for sharing your photographs with us.

Teresa said...

Oh my goodness, I'm so glad you shared your pictures- the "Big" city looks fabulous,loved seeing the sites!- I had a similar post today about our Little "city" christmas- not as spectacular as yours- just simple and cute-
Thanks for sharing- Loved it!

Smilingsal said...

Thanks for taking me along on your Christmas trip to Chicago. I love that city!

Katie @ said...

Wow! What a party. And what a tree! We were leaving Berlin to visit family in the US just as they put a tree like that up. sigh. so beautiful!

KarenB said...

I lived outside Chicago for 7 years. Macy's is taking over everywhere. It's really sad. I hope you had a special day with friends anyway.

jill said...

All I can say is, Eggnog Brandy Alexander is now on my list to make this holiday season! Thanks for sharing your trip.

Lady of the Cloth said...

Boy, do I hear you. I had a run in with Macy's when they took over our Meier & Frank Store.. I won't go into it but it took me many hours on the phone with someone in India, NUFF said. I ended up canceling my account over it. Bon Marche, I loved it. I haven't found clothes I really like since they closed. I think we just need to dig deep and find our own traditions. I'm having trouble this season because we don't have anyone coming home. Kids are far away! BOO HOO.
OK< I'm done now.
Merry Christmas.