Chris sat in the deep cushioned lime green and silver armchair like a teenage king on an outsized thrown.
He’d already tugged his brand-new official Chicago Bears #34 jersey over his brown-striped, long sleeve polo. Partnered with his knee-patched Toughskin, constituted an envied look by the adolescent court scattered about the living room.
Sean Wells sat perched on the arm of Chris’ chair, grinning through his chipped tooth, the result of a recent disagreement with his Huffy on the stopping power of the Forest Avenue curb.
Joe Champelli sat just a few feet off to Chris’ right. His right hand rested just inches from Chris’ blue suede Keds. Mine, I noted, were plain white.
Eric Caldwell, exhausted from a recent, all-night Dungeons & Dragons bender, lay almost horizontal on the brown plush carpeting. He stared at the beige ceiling as if Gandalf himself might soon descend with cupcakes and hit points for all.
Chris’ thick plastic glasses slid down his nose as he reached for his last gift, a box nearly half is size. His bangs fell over his blue eyes radiant with excitement.
My mother stood on the edge of the living room, brushing her frosted pageboy from her face. Her plaid polyester dress contrasted sharply with the short, orange apron tied around her waist. She smiled, one ear on the excited chatter of growing boys, the other on the coarse screech of the kitchen timer that would signal desert.
My father stood an arm’s length away from her, stoic and unwavering above us all. His thick mustache sat on his lip like a sleepy caterpillar. The picture window over his shoulder framed another Chicago winter afternoon, the kind where the flat gray sky constantly threatens a snowy white-out.
Chris tore the wrapping paper methodically. Sean punched his shoulder, giddy with anticipation, and told him to hurry. Joe laughed. I sat at his feet, looking with wide, admiring eyes at my big brother: the teenager.
His eyes grew wide as the paper fell away. He opened the lid, mouthing a slow, emphatic “Wow!” as he pulled an Official NFL Chicago Bears Football Mini-Helmet Style Table Lamp from its cardboard confines. Sean, Joe, Eric and I gasped in unison, paused, then squealed, “Cool!”
“Let’s plug it in!” he said.
My mother scurried for a light bulb. Chris pulled the plastic from the shade, and unraveled the cord. My father stepped into the fray and began exhuming the discarded detritus of the day: boxes, ribbons, colored paper and bubble wrap. My mother returned, and handed Chris a fresh 60-watt light bulb. He screwed it carefully into the base, snapped the shade in place, plugged it in, and turned the switch.
We sat there a minute, all six of us silently basking in the warm, incandescent light. The buzzer sounded. Dusk was falling on Chicagoland as we rushed off to the dining room for cake.