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The Dance of the Christmas Chipmunks

  One special night in the early 60's with my little sister on Christmas Eve.     Blankets of wintry pallid snow sheathed the entire city of Chicago that Christmas Eve, 1962. Bitter cold gusts blustered about decorating our windows with the artistic work of the winter Jack Frost.   Jack had creatively designed a series of white and crystal geometric ice sculptures on every window of our living room. And with the incandescent glow of the outdoor white streetlights shinning from the outside, turned his work into clear lace-like works of art.      1962, was the year President John Kennedy had successfully put an end to the Cuban Missile crisis and Lt. Col. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. Everything and the world around us seemed to be in sync with blessed harmony.      Our family of six and our aging great-grandparents pooled our finances in order to move in a four-bedroom; three-bathroom apartment in the fashionable section of Chicago called Hyde Park so we could help with their care of an ailing Great Grandfather. After moving from a one bedroom, rat infested slums to this place was like a gift from God!     This was my first real sense of a home since I joined my family after being raised by my great-grandparents. Now we had as much hot water and food as we needed. A nice school to attend which was right across the street, named St. Ambrose that we could walk to, instead of taking the transit bus with my three brothers and sister. We could bring friends home and not be ashamed because our parents slept in the living on the sofa bed were we entertained our friends. The absence of drunks and young drunken males singing du-wop on the corners till all hours of the night was forgotten.     Hyde Park was home to many famous residents, Mary Lincoln (wife of President Lincoln) moved there after leaving the White House in 1865, Frank Lloyd Wright the architect, Carl Sandburg, poet, Clarence Darrow, lawyer and Mohammed Ali, World Champion Boxer just to name a few.     My sister Leigh and I had always shared a bedroom but this time our room was big enough to have twin beds instead of bunk beds. And we even had our own private bathroom. Our bedroom closet was big enough to make into another bedroom. Mama and Grandma had filled it with ball gowns of many colors and high heel shoes to match. Inside there was a small table with two chairs we used when we played house or tea party, dressed in fine clothing and our most precious dolls as guest. With our pinkies pointed in the air, we sipped our tea and gave our guest pretend crackers. We had never been there but surely this had to be heaven.      Grandpa Sylvester had purchased our Christmas tree that year…a giant aluminum tree that came with a color wheel. After decorating the tree the wheel was plugged in and put beside the tree. Four colors of red, blue, green and yellow filled our glass-enclosed patio and made the tree glow in colors and it slowly spun around. Since our apartment faced Greenwood, all of the neighbors and passing cars would be able to look at our beautiful tree.     Christmas Eve was here and Leigh and I were tired of playing in our tea garden and looked for something else to do. As we entered the living room all of the lights were out except for the colorful lights from the wheel.      Suddenly I took off my shoes and ran over to the record player and put on the Chipmunk’s Christmas album and without my consent suddenly my feet began to glide across the polished hardwood floors of our large living room. And without a word said, my sister, Leigh took off her shoes and joined in the chipmunk ballet.     Our small dark arms stretched and arched, our toes pointed and flexed, our youthful bodies twirled and bended, still we managing at the end of each selection coming to the perfect ending pose. Knowing there was no one to witness this performance we clapped for ourselves and waited anxiously for the next tune to begin.      Leigh and I performed what we thought of as graceful ballerina moves and gestures in perfect unison to each song as it played on the pink and white monochrome stereo sat on the nearby table.   The black vinyl Christmas album never skipped once as my sister and I floated and twirled to each song. We each created what we thought of as gazelle like steps, jetes’s and whatever our eleven and nine year old psyches could recreate or remember from watching others dancing on our television. Our two gray formless silhouettes projected onto the living room walls joined us as we danced that evening.      Our ball gowns ballooned about our pint-sized frames as we twirled around the whole living room in quiet syncopation. Throughout our apartment, floating colors of red, blue, green and yellow encased our gray gigantic formless shadows onto the living room walls joined us as we danced Christmas Eve of 1962. - By Isharra M. Jamari
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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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