I read something very sad this past weekend. A favorite place of mine burned down. A place filled with memories for me. Younkers Department Store in downtown Des Moines, IA. Younkers had a Tea Room where lunches and fashion shows were the norm. I enjoyed many times there. My dainty chicken salad, lemonade and delicious ice cream. I went to the store often with my Grandma Selma and my mom. Amy, too. There were other visits to Younkers with my Grandpa Phil. We would have lunch and shop for a special outfit or dress for a holiday.
I remember one special trip with my Grandpa where we rode the bus to Younkers, had lunch and shopped. My special purchase was wrapped in tissue, a pretty box and finished off with a lovely ribbon. We had to walk a few blocks home and I was tired. My Grandpa picked me up and carried me most of the way. Me and my special gift.
After reading the article about the fire in the building that used to house Younkers and now was being renovated (ironically by a firm from Madison) I started to link a chain of memories together. I remembered a boy named Michael who used to live next door to my grandparents. He was about my age. We played when I visited Des Moines. He had a swing set and we would invent outside games. It was nice to have a friend my age to spend time with when I visited. After getting to know him a bit, I found out that he had cancer. I didn't understand completely. He was well enough to play and the fact that he was sick soon left my mind. Until one visit. I remember arriving later in the evening. I knew I wouldn't be able to play with Michael until the next day. When I asked to go over and see him my grandma said it would be best if I didn't. Michael was quite sick and couldn't have visitors. I was so sad that I couldn't play with my Des Moines friend. I know I asked several more times to see him and always got the same answer. At the end of my visit, I remember standing in the driveway between my grandparent's house and Michael's house. I knew what window was his bedroom window. I wished so badly to see him. And I'm not sure how long it took, but the blind was pulled back. Just a little. And a hand gave me a quick wave. And that was the last time I saw Michael. He had died by my next visit.
It was a lovely neighborhood that my grandparents lived in. Sweet bungalow homes. Some two story houses. Lots of brick and bay windows. And the screen porches on the backs of the houses. We would have lunches and dinners in the the three season porch off the back of my grandparent's house. My grandpa had his desk/office on the porch. He kept me very busy being his secretary. I took copious notes, ran errands and made sure he had a snack. He complimented me on what a great job I did. He told me I was his best secretary. At least since my mom had been his secretary.
It was amazing how my memories came flooding back to me so vividly and quickly with the reading of this one article about Younkers in downtown Des Moines. A place that may no longer physically be standing, but is still and will forever be a place of happy memories for me.