Slowly, breathing heavily, holding on to the banister for support, a tall, thin woman holding a paper sack in one hand ascended the stairs. In the other, she held the hand of a little girl, smaller than Barb or me, but not a toddler. Each step the woman took seemed more difficult for her. When she got to the second story landing, where Mom could see her better, Mom hurried down the stairs to help her. Mom took the child’s hand and the paper sack and led them up the stairs to our apartment.
Noreen stood in the entry way, perspiring, near the big walnut desk that held the telephone and served as a reception area for our guests. Her coat was a thin, worn, loden green cloth coat, not much protection from the bleak Chicago winter outside. She had no gloves or boots, and a rayon scarf was tied over her head and knotted at the chin. Her daughter was dressed in warmer clothes, a snowsuit, mittens and boots. The little girl yawned and leaned against her mother. Noreen hesitated, embarrassed.
“I don’t want to get your floors wet.”
Mom replied, “Aw, don’t worry about this dump. Come on in. Stand on this rug while I get you some slippers. Anita, go get the little girl—what’s your name?—a pair of your slippers. I’m sorry, what’s your name, Honey? Christine? Oh that’s pretty. A pretty name for a pretty girl. Your nickname is Cookie. You’re my Christmas Cookie.”
I ran to the bedroom closet and pulled out a pair of my old slippers, Chinese silk backless beauties with a rose embroidered across the toes that I had saved long after I grew out of them. Gram and Gramps had purchased them for me when we visited San Francisco and I could not let them go. I had huge feet that grew quickly for a small girl and, pretty soon after I bought them, my heels were hanging off the back of the slippers, so I put them away in the closet. These are too big, but maybe we can stuff them with toilet paper.
By the time I came back with the slippers, Mom had ushered our visitors into the living room, hung their coats in the bathroom, and was offering them goodies.
“Do you want a Coke? How about some Christmas candy? Some chips? Dip?”
Mom was no cook, but she always had a great supply of snacks available. Noreen shook her head and declined softly.
“No, thank you, Helen.
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