You know that I grew up on the south side of Chicago. Furthermore, Janet and I were there several weeks ago as we had to go to O’Hare airport and get our new Global Entry cards. And while we were there, we went past the cemetery where my mother and father are buried. Obviously, it brought back many memories of growing up in the Windy City and on top of everything else, had my mother lived, last Friday, October 5th would have been her 88th birthday.
But, she died back in 1998 – that’s fourteen years ago and time marches on. In fact, I find that my memories of her are fading a little, much more than the memories of my Dad who died way back in 1978 – 5 years after Janet and I were married.
But this evening, things weren’t sad – they were joyous. That’s because we had Chicago Dog night here at the house with Kristin and her family. In fact, I don’t know that we have every done that before. And anyone who grew up in Chicago knows that the best hotdogs in the world are made there. So I went out, got the all beef dogs and all the fixins’ – diced onion, tomato, mustard, green relish, poppy seeds on the buns, celery salt and the final piece – those small, dark green sport peppers. No real Chicago dog fan would ever put catsup on a dog, but then again, not everyone is a purist.
Kristin and the kids loved the meal. We actually started the dogs on the grill and then let each of the kids finish their grilling over an open fire with a traditional skewer. Everyone had a great time. I never thought our fire pit would ever get so much use and be the source of so many memories for our family – but it was terrific. Much like when I was a young kid myself.
We lived several blocks away from Snyder’s Hot Dog stand – one of the famous ones on Chicago’s south side. And next to it was Janson’s – they had great milk shakes and fries. Snyder’s was only open in the summer months – you know, a freestanding outdoor walk-up kind of place that was painted white. Steamed poppy seed buns and the whole thing – even the tamales wrapped in the paper with the string ties on each end. I can remember it like it was yesterday.
Dad used to head over there with us on the week-ends with a list of orders for Mom, the three of us kids and anyone else who happened to be around our home. Since it was only two blocks away, we would walk. After all, the place was so popular, it took forever to find a place to park in the small gravel lot behind the stand. I also remember one sad event there – when a drunk driver ran over the curb at 99th and Western Avenue and hit a high school girl who was a friend. Unfortunately, she was dragged across the the street, winding up in Janson’s parking lot – she died from wounds suffered in the accident.
It wasn’t so long after the accident that Snyder’s moved across the street. It wasn’t the same after Marge lost her life there. It became known as the site of the accident and the business was never as strong as he had been previously. I guess it never occurred to any of us that it was dangerous for the hot dog stand to be that close to the street – but at the time we didn’t think anything of it. It’s strange to recall how so many seemingly unrelated things can trigger memories of the distant past.
The point of tonight’s post is that each of these events with hotdogs came with a strong element of fellowship. Whether it was Dad getting dogs for the neighborhood, or Marge and the rest of us stopping by for a meal and some discussion, or Kristin and boys around the fire pit this evening grilling their dogs on skewers, for some reason, camaraderie and fellowship always seemed to be a part of a Chicago dog. Even tonight, as I was picking up the sport peppers from the grocery store, the mere mention of hotdogs from Chicago started up a conversation with a guy who remembered Snyder’s. It’s a small world sometimes…
The verse for tonight speaks about another type of fellowship – from 1 John 1:3, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” My encouragement this evening is that you should use every moment available to you for the purpose of building community and fellowship with those people who you influence – introducing them in an invitational way to the Creator of the universe. My prayer is that you will make a difference in the life of someone who needs a friend – and that the difference you make will last an eternity. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…