It was snowing (imagine that!), so we bundled up (including finding mom some layers of gear to borrow) and caught the train into the city.
First Chicago-Love item: the Metra. I love the train. My station is just about three blocks from my house, and only the absolute worst weather is going to make me do anything but walk to it. With the train, I can enjoy the city and instead of traffic, I get a couple of hours of reading in or focused conversation with a friend, and to top it all off, when I get there I don't have to find (or pay for) parking!
Art Institute, where the lions had already been wreathed, and I decided to bite the bullet and get a membership. It's a better deal if you already live in the city, but I don't want to leave Chicago (not that I'm planning to) without having had the opportunity to see everything in the Art Institute, and now that I have the membership, I'll be sure to use it. (And on top of all the expected perks, members also get access to a cozy members lounge which features free Intelligentsia coffee and fancy hot teas!)
After several hours at the Art Institute, we braved the canyons of the city for a few blocks to Macy's.
Third Chicago-Love item: the skyscraper canyons. I love the Loop. The canyons work like a cathedral on me, drawing my eyes to the sky and making me feel tall. I get a rush every time I walk out of a building. I love how the Chicago River winds through it (more on that to come) and serves as a gentler counterpoint to the rivers of traffic.
I half expected this to be a tourist trap kind of thing, but everything was lovely, from the tree to the maitre d' to our server to the food. It was fun to enjoy a white-tablecloth "lunchdinner" with my mama. It's enough of a treat just to spend a day with her, but it's doubly fun to share beautiful (and yummy) things with her.
After we ate, it had gotten dark, so we went outside to see the windows. Macy's did paper-art windows this year based on the animated version of "Yes, Virginia..." they sponsored a few years ago. The windows were lovely, filled with creative details. Even the wallpaper patterns in the scenes were cut paper art.
Candle Tea and Christmas Eve Lovefeasts, Moravian stars and those impossibly thin and crisp ginger cookies (all Winston-Salem Christmas traditions),Christmas time is special in Chicago. People decorate their houses more, the public areas are bright with lights and decorations all around the area, and restaurants start to look like someplace the Ghost of Christmas Past might have decorated if he added strands of electric lights to his arsenal. But what makes it really work is the snow. We don't always have snow around Christmas, but we usually have it sometime in there. When yards are white and snow is drifting down on you as you stroll down city streets looking at Christmas lights and windows, it's just plain magic.
And to top it all off, there's Chicago's best Christmas tradition: The White Christmas Sing-a-Long at the Music Box Theater. It starts with a carol sing accompanied by the live organ, and then the stars in the ceiling twinkle as the show starts: "White Christmas" with an audience that sings along, rings jingle bells every time the word "snow" is heard, and applauds particularly great lines like it's live theater. I love it.
So here's to Chicago and a white Christmas next year and every year, with family and friends to share it all with!