The Santa Claus parade in downtown Peoria kicked off our family Christmas season. The Friday after Thanksgiving, Aunt Nita would gather the nieces and nephews and take us to one of the streets along the parade route. The parade started down by the river where a cold wind blew across the water. Clowns on stilts and bicycles, elves, marching bands, bigwigs and pretty girls in convertibles all preceded Santa so we were cold and tired before the big event. Finally Santa with his sleigh and a couple of reindeer on a flatbed truck meant we could go back to Grandma’s for hot chocolate.

A few weeks later we were enjoying a typical evening at our house; Dad smoking his pipe and reading a paperback western and Mom darning socks while listening to Fibber McGee and Molly. The radio sat on the smoking stand next to Dad, the one piece of furniture from their house that I still have.

I sat on the couch reading a comic book and my brothers played with toy soldiers on the floor. All was peaceful, then the sound of bells and a knock on the side window. My brothers and I jumped and ran to the window to see Santa waving at us.