My Christmas started about a week ago on a quiet Saturday morning. As usual, I got up early, fixed coffee, turned on my Christmas lights and sat in the 14th floor windows of my high-rise, my favorite place on a winter morning. It was dark at 6:30 a.m. when I saw the el leaving Oak Park Avenue and heading to Harlem. It had red and green blinking lights all over it and a big red decoration on the front. I don’t think it was the whiz-bang Christmas el, but I loved watching it move in and out of the buildings.

Then I looked down at the fence surrounding Mills Park and Pleasant Home, which has strings of lights its entire length. No cars that early, just lights. Then I looked down at the houses on Home Avenue, roofs all white with morning frost, and I watched as lights came on in the houses one by one.

I wonder if I should keep watch on Christmas Eve to see if the Polar Express pulls up on Home Avenue to pick up one of the kids. Maybe I could run out in my best granny gown and beg to get on board. An all-time favorite movie scene is where the waiters serve hot chocolate to the kids on the train. However, on its way to the North Pole, I think there are some scary moments on bridges and in mountains and I’m not up for those.

Here’s a lovely story about my Encore Chorale’s recent performance (90 singers, full-house audience at Pilgrim Congregational Church). One of my fellow altos had missed almost every rehearsal due to illness. When she showed up for the concert I asked her how she managed to learn the music. She said that she and her husband (an Encore bass) would practice when he came to see her in the hospital.

Speaking of Pilgrim Congregational, chorus members stowed their coats in the chapel. I had never been in the chapel. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was streaming through the ground-level stained glass windows. Who knew about this treasure?

When I walk into the YMCA for my pitifully sporadic workouts, there is always an original flower/plant arrangement on the front desk. They’re donated by the exquisite Tulipia florist, which recently made its new home on Chicago Avenue near Harlem. Let’s keep them there.

I have a Christmas wish for the Art Institute to celebrate its 125th anniversary by giving a gift to Chicago. The Charles White exhibit this past summer was stunning. I went twice, but I was so moved I could not really finish either time. Those faces are consuming. Here’s my idea: move the large collection of antiquities that overlooks the railroad yard and devote that huge space permanently to Charles White, the brilliant black Chicago artist. It would be such a stirring and appropriate first impression for visitors and the rest of us, although it might create a (good) traffic problem.

Speaking of brilliant artists, Lin Manuel Miranda. Simply the best. Just lovely. He understands America’s past and represents America’s future.

So what do I want from Santa Claus? Well, I guess it’s hopeless that my grandchildren will ever wear footed pajamas again, but I would love to afford to take them all to see Hamilton.

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Mary Kay O'Grady

Mary Kay O'Grady is a former high school English teacher and later owned her own public relations business, The O'Grady Group. She has lived in Oak Park for almost fifteen years. She is currently the chairperson...