Most days on the drive home from work, a CD provides the soundtrack for the journey.
However, the other day, the radio was on and this song came on: "Colour My World" by Chicago. For just a few moments in my mind, it was Christmas 1971.
Most people don't associate that song with Christmas, but for me, it is a reminder of the first holiday season I felt like a grown up. Of course, I was only 13, but to me, it was a start of being an adult because my older brother Eric let me go Christmas shopping with him.
Eric was 21 at the time and a student at Central Michigan University. When he came home on winter break, one afternoon he casually asked if I'd like to go Christmas shopping with him that night. Kid sister me was stunned: After years of me having been his unwanted tag-along, he actually was requesting my company.
Of course I said yes. My friends told me my brother was pretty groovy, a big compliment back in '71. He was letting me hang with him. How cool was that?
And he didn't say so, but being away from home had, in 1970s vernacular, mellowed his trip out, man. The family wasn't so bad compared to some of the dandies he met at college.
That December night, we went shopping in downtown Ishpeming. All these years later, the names of the stores aren't anywhere in my memory bank. But as clear as if it happened yesterday, I remember the chilly snap of the winter air, the sound of my brother's Opel Kadett trying to warm up and the sight of the snow that was falling that evening.
My brother parked on a side street, then we walked over to Main Street, where there were a number of stores open late for holiday shoppers. Eric went to one store and told me he'd find me at the boutique where I wanted to begin shopping.
The store was brightly decorated for the holiday season and many tempting items were on display. Necklaces, bracelets and rings were what caught my eye first as I recall that evening. It was fun to check out what was on sale.
What stands out in my memory at that point is a snotty salesgirl. And girl is the right term as I reflect because now that I think back, she was probably no more than 16 or 17. But she had Attitude with a capital A and her "can I help you?" dripped with disdain.
Being 13 and totally intimidated, I stammered, no doubt, as I offered a meek "just looking" and she actually snorted. Obviously, she was not thrilled with me as a customer. She probably correctly guessed that my wallet wasn't overladen with cash and she wasn't going to be making a huge commission on any sale she made to me.
But she made me feel like an intruder rather than a potential client. My face burned as I considered what to do next.
Just then, the bell hanging on the store's door tinkled and in walked my handsome 21-year-old brother. The salesgirl's head snapped in his direction and she stood up a bit straighter. As my brother walked toward me, this snotty girl looked at me, then at him again, apparently realizing the connection.
"Can I help YOU?" she cheerfully said to my bro. He shook his head and pointed at me, "Just make sure she gets what she needs."
Suddenly, this snooty chick was my new best friend. She sweetly asked who I was shopping for and indicated a few items that might be of interest. While I looked around, she stood by my brother's side, casting flirty glances at him.
Eric ignored her and I wanted to cheer.
If memory serves, I bought a pair of gloves for my Mom at the store and then we were on our way to other shops. When we finished, we got back in the Opel and my brother fired it up. "Colour My World" came on the radio and we sat in companionable silence as we headed home that evening.
My brother never knew (until now) how he was even more a hero than ever to me that night. But whenever I hear that Chicago song, Christmas 1971 pops into my head along with a renewal of that feeling that being a kid sister ain't so bad after all.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.