My brother Brian and I will most likely be the last generation of our family to work at Carson’s.

A few weeks ago, their owners Bon Ton announced that they are closing down all their stores permanently, including Carson’s.

We both were third generation of our family to work at the well-known Chicagoland department store. While I worked in the Men’s Department, first in Accessories and Dress Shirts, then in Slacks and Dockers — no snide remarks, I heard them enough when I worked there and would say, “I work in Men’s Slacks and Dockers” — and my brother worked in stock distribution, of the three generations of Facks who worked at Carson’s, our Dad had reached the highest out of all of us: furniture buyer.

The first job I ever knew Dad had was working for Carson’s on State Street in downtown Chicago. At the time I didn’t appreciate it, but the wrought iron facade of the Louis Sullivan building was an architectural masterpiece, both of early high-rises and of city architecture, of which Chicago reigns as Queen (if not King).
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I’ve always done it.

As long as I can remember, I associate the frosts and snows of winter with renewal.

I don’t know when the idea first crept into my head, but I remember distinctly when I was about 14 or 15 (or maybe even 16), looking out the front window of my parents’ house after a heavy snow during Christmas break (sometime after Christmas and New Year but before school started again) and think, “This is God’s way of renewal.”

As I type this, there’s a heavy frost outside. The grass is a combination of green and white, more light mint green (like the colour of those chocolates you used to be able to get from Marshall Fields) than anything. The spa cover, chairs, tables, and all the fittings outside are covered in a fine white powder-like coating. The ball fountain (stop thinking dirty, Muriel) has water bubbling out the top but the base has a frozen layer over it.

Some people hate winter. They think it’s cold, it’s miserable, they have to bundle up, they have to wait forever for their car to warm up, yadda, yadda. But I think of it as a season of renewal. Winter comes along, kills all the bugs or at least puts them to rest. She pushes trees and other annual plants and shrubs into a sleep, to awaken when her sister Spring comes along.

And if it snows, that first look is amazing. The pristine, untouched snow glistening and fresh on the yard reminds me of something wonderful, something new.

In this world of uncertainty and the rising tide of madness, maybe we need to hold on to the most basic components of humanity.

There are mad people out there, and a rising tide of them, who are willing to do almost anything to either make their point or significantly damage others to get their way, or both.

They won’t win. There are too many of us normal people out there to let them win.

I’ve been seeing a lot of TV programmes as of late on World War II. For those of you who don’t know, my dad’s side of the family were in Nazi Germany during World War II. When I was “old enough” to have it, my Dad gave me a tape my Aunt Lisa had made with my Oma and Opa about World War II and their experiences. I was reluctant to listen to it at first — by this time, my Oma had been dead for over a decade and I felt guilty that time had robbed me of how her voice sounded — but I did, and I learned a lot about the evil side of humanity.

And the good.

You see, for every bad story, there are ten more good ones. The media focuses on the negative ones because, as a species, we are more likely to pay attention to that. Somehow, we are psychologically wired that way.

But the stories that rise from World War II paint a story, eventually, of renewal. Europe rebuilds herself. Not just into any old Europe but, now, a European Union. Countries that once fought one another are now working together (maybe not in the best way but they are working together) towards a common goal.

And it’s a pattern we are following around the world. The United Nations. APEC. All these organisations and people from sometimes radically diverse backgrounds are working together: all the aftermath of a world war. All renewal.

So, looking at the crisp frost on our lawn on this chilly winter’s morning, I think of the positive traits we have as humans, ones to win against those who seek to impose their own will on us or destroy us just because we don’t have the same God or the same ideas on freedom.

Hope. Sanity.

Rationale. Diversity.

Determination. Forgiveness. Peace.

And Renewal.