Cyberbullying for Adults “Talk of the Town”


From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier March 19, 2015

Last year, I attended a seminar on bullying at Prospect Elementary School. The Clarendon Hills police department paid for the program, in which Officer Bean educated parents on safety measures to protect our children from cyberbullying.

Of course, it’s no secret that bullying is a pervasive problem in our schools today. Usually it starts with one child — a ringleader who has some petty issue with the victim or maybe is just plain bored. This person encourages other children to jump in on the fun, and before long “the fun” has become a very unfair fight for the person being bullied.

Today’s technology adds a whole new element to the phenomenon. Thanks to social media, what would have been a single, isolated incident can spread through a school like wildfire blowing through a forest. When the Internet is involved, a child can be transformed from a classmate to an outcast in a single day. This is the incredible destructive power of cyberbullying.

Sadly, I saw that phenomenon in action recently when my wife, Amy, began running for our local school board. I initially Googled her name to see if her website was being picked up by the search engine. But to my surprise, I found some negative comments posted about her — and me — on a parent-run blog.

Some of the blog’s posts and comments seemed sincere, informed and productive … but many of them weren’t. In fact, many of them were unfounded, vicious attacks on her character, experience and intelligence. A few of them were even wild accusations and conspiracy theories about my affiliation with The Hinsdalean.

One thing that most of the vitriolic posts had in common was the author — or so it would seem. While the various comments had been written by different people, most of the hurtful ones all shared the same byline: “Anonymous.”

What is the motivation for posting an anonymous comment? Well, in some countries, the anonymity of the Internet protects human rights activists from tyrannical regimes or violent terrorists. In others, posting as Anonymous protects the posters from severe punishments imposed upon those who use government-prohibited sites.

Somehow, I don’t think those descriptions apply to our our affluent suburban school district, do you?

What’s in a name? A signature? A byline? In my world, signing your name to something means you stand behind it. It means you approve, without reservation, of the message you’re sending. It means that you’re willing to be held personally responsible for the information you’re providing … that the words you’ve written are something you can be proud of, regardless of who reads them.

If that’s the case, what does it mean to be anonymous?

There are those in our community who say, “Anything’s fair game when we’re fighting for our children’s education.” But I would remind those people — those fellow parents — that our children’s education begins with us. They watch us, they learn from us, they mimic our behavior. And often, they turn out just like us … for better or for worse.

Shouldn’t we teach our children to debate important issues without hiding behind the mask of Internet anonymity? Shouldn’t we teach them to show respect to everyone — including those with whom they disagree? Open, honest debates teach our children to be individual learners and critical thinkers. Respectful, candid discussions (online, in print or in person) teach them to hold themselves accountable, producing and sharing ideas they can be proud to attach their names to.

But what about those children who, having been taught better, continue to share only vitriol? What about those whose contributions are so vicious and/or inaccurate that they can only be shared when nobody knows who shared them?

Well, even my eleven-year-old knows what to call those kids. (It begins with the letter B.)

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around the area.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting residents and even a little about history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry has been selling real estate in the western suburbs for over 25 years and his office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

Anonymous

Anonymous

The Digital Age

Guest Columnist: Noah McCurry “Talk of the Town”


Noah McCurry with the infamous "Mask". Plucking away his column with his dad.

Noah McCurry with the infamous “Mask”. Plucking away at his column with his dad two Saturday’s ago.

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier March 5, 2015

A Day in the Life of Noah McCurry

Getting out of bed on your own is not easy. Well … not until mom comes in the room (and yells) because you have no choice but to skedaddle and get to the breakfast table to start the day. From there, getting ready for school and taking showers is not easy with three other siblings.

Oh, by the way: I’m Noah McCurry, and this is my day.

I usually like to walk to school in the morning so I can be on time. But it has just been too cold! If my hair was wet, it would freeze! So lately, my dad has been driving us to school. Before we leave the house, though, we usually read a page from a book called “Jesus Calling.” It’s a devotional book that has messages for each day of the year. It’s always a rush to get out the door in the morning, so we are not usually on time.

One of the first people that I see when going into school is Mrs. Martin, the school’s secretary. You see, she is the person who hands out the late passes! If you are lucky (because it’s really cold outside), the late bell really doesn’t mean that you are late.

On a great day (and if I’m on time) I see my friend Pietro, who is usually at the front of the line outside. He lets me jump in line with him. No one seems to mind because they know that we are friends. My teacher, Mrs. Perkowski, is awesome! My older brother and sister have already had her as their teacher and I hope my younger sister gets to have her too!

At lunchtime I sit with my friends, Jackson, Alex and another Alex. We like to talk about sports. Mondays are a little different, though, because I go to Spanish class and eat there. There are some adults who are in the lunchroom with us: Mrs. Zickert and Miss Johnson. They are always nice to us, even when we are acting crazy! Before I could read really well in school, they would help me read the notes my mom puts in my lunch. Now that I can read, they sometimes still want to read my notes. I think they like to see what she’s telling me.

On Fridays, we get to hear about the life of one of my classmates. It’s an interesting morning each week when one lucky student shares about his or her life. They bring lots of pictures, their trophies and even their parents. Afterwards, we slip out our laptops and type encouraging letters to the person who did the sharing. I got to share my life a little while ago and it was really fun.

One of my favorite activities is practicing soccer. I get to see my friend, Sachin. He plays on my AYSO soccer team, which is called the Green Ninjas. At practice, we do scrimmages and drills so that I can get to be a better player. I love to play soccer!

My Papa and Nonnie (Grandma and Grandpa) brought home a mask from Mexico for me. I sometimes like to wear it at home to pretend that I’m an animal running through the house on hands and feet, like a cat chasing string. The real reason I like to wear it is because I can scare people or make them laugh.

One of my favorite things to do is to go on vacation with my family. We usually go to Florida for winter break. When we drive down, it is our tradition to stop at a Waffle House to celebrate my birthday. The people there are very nice and one year we all got hats signed by the people that work there. The drive is long but getting there makes up for it. My mom gets all stressed out because my dad does not find a house until we pull into town. He likes to do that because that’s kind of his job. The best part of being on vacation is the McCurry’s don’t ever worry about being on time.
Noah is a second grade student and one of four children in the McCurry family. Noah loves playing soccer, football, basketball, paddle and climbing on just about any fixed structure. Recently he has been writing fiction. Most of all, Noah loves to encourage people and make them laugh.

Noah McCurry plucking away his column with his dad two Saturday's ago..

Noah McCurry plucking away his column with his dad two Saturday’s ago..

Noah, the Climber

Noah, the Climber

2015-01-08 15.12.07

Noah and his siblings: Elizabeth, Abigail and Micah

Noah and his siblings: Elizabeth, Abigail and Micah

The Cub House – A Fun House since 1887 “Talk of the Town”


305 Ridge, Clarendon Hills Cub House - Fun House!

305 Ridge, Clarendon Hills
Cub House – Fun House!

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier – February 19th, 2015

For as long as anyone can remember, the third Saturday in March has been a very special day for the residents of Ridge Street.

For years, droves of cars would line both sides of the street for blocks, many of them sporting red, white and blue bumper stickers. The partygoers making their way from their cars to 305 Ridge, the epicenter of the celebration, would create a moving, flowing banner of red, white and blue.

No, it wasn’t a Fourth of July party in March — although to many Chicagoans, the day inspired similar feelings of patriotism and pride. This was the party at Ann Schenck’s house for the first day of Cubs baseball season.

These were legendary parties that any Cubs fan (or friend of the Schencks) wouldn’t dare miss. With up to 100 people attending, an occasional Sox fan would pop through the door just to give comfort to Ann’s husband, Peter. Peter, who, sadly, passed away in 2005, always sported the black and white south-side colors, and while the couple agreed on many things, Chicago baseball was not one of them! They were a house divided — a “mixed marriage,” as Ann likes to say.

I recently had a chance to talk to Ann, and hers is a fascinating history. A lifelong devoted fan (or f-a-n-a-t-i-c), Ann has spent her last 30 winters at spring training camp following the Cubs. The memorabilia and stories she has collected over the years could fill a museum … and the home at 305 Ridge might just count as one.

It wasn’t always such a renowned house of fun, though. Until recently, there have only been four families that have owned it. Originally built in 1887 by the Gregory Brothers, who also built several other homes throughout Clarendon Hills, it was later owned by the Carrs. The Tillsens bought it next and raised a large family. They sold it to the Grishams, who were only there for one year before selling it to the Schenks in 1978 for a whopping $115,000.

Clarendon Hills was a much different place when Ann and Peter purchased the home. Back then there were only a few homes available in town! This particular house was overgrown with trees and shrubbery at the time, and what’s more, it was just too tight for what they were used to. It was originally a smallish, two-bedroom, one-bath residence. The attic area was built out in the 1940s to accommodate upstairs bedrooms, and the Tillsons put in the much-needed front staircase leading to the second floor. Before that, the only staircase was on the outside of the house!

However, since Ann grew up in Clarendon Hills, location was a primary driving force, and this house fit that bill perfectly. She drew her architectural ideas for an addition on the back side of a napkin and shared it with both her husband and their realtor at the time, Diane (Robertson) Cochran. With her ideas on paper, she boldly stated, “We’re going to buy this home.” Two additions later, she had the space she always wanted.

After putting so much care into it, it’s no surprise that Ann wanted her home to survive the teardown phenomenon. But some time ago, Ann and a neighbor bought the home between them, tore it down and split the lot in two. This created a rare, 105-foot frontage, which was very desirable for anyone wanting to build.

Recently, I sensed that Ann was OK with the home coming down and a new chapter for the “Cubs” house. We worked together to sell the home, and as of a week ago, a new family and a new history will be played out in the space that first caught her eye: that wonderful location at 305 Ridge.

As for the Cubs memorabilia, there are many happy friends and family displaying it proudly in their homes. And of course, the happy memories of the Cubs parties at 305 Ridge will forever remain in their hearts.

 

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

 

305 Ridge, Clarendon Hills

305 Ridge, Clarendon Hills

Beer Pairing is Hot! Taley’s is happy to pour on the heat! “Talk of the Town”


Krista Talley

Krista Talley

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier – February 5th, 2015

My mouth was on fire, but it was the kind of fire I love: flavorful heat that ignites your palate and makes you feel alive! Searching frantically for something to douse the flames, our waitress handed me the next beer sampling: a delicious, hoppy IPA from Lagunitas Brewery in Chicago. Ahhh … back to normal again!

Glancing across the room, I saw Krista Talley offer a mischievous grin. Perhaps it was the extra heat she’d put into the spicy pork wing I’d just tried. Or maybe it was the sheer power she held over the 45 hungry men in the room, each of whom had come for an unforgettable food and beer pairing. I couldn’t be sure. But either way, I knew the mischief was tempered with the joy of seeing her guests enjoy her creation. This is how Krista works. She is an artist, and food is her canvas.

Krista is the owner of Talley’s Kitchen and Bar in downtown Clarendon Hills. The popular hotspot at the intersection of South Prospect and Park avenues is named for and dedicated to her father, the late Frank Talley. And rightly so; much of her culinary drive and inspiration stem from, as her website reads, “the aromas and laughter coming from (her) parents’ kitchen.”

I got to sit down with Krista and her daughter, Mia, in my office recently. She told me about her education at Arizona Culinary Institute in Scottsdale and about growing up in a family so passionate about food. Cooking is a family tradition that remains very much alive today; many of the specials and wines that she serves at Talley’s have origins deeply rooted in Talley family history.

I can still remember the first time I tried one of her signature Spicy Pork Wings — which, as you may have guessed, are more pork than wing. These delectable hunks of meat are pork shanks, or parts of the back legs of the pig, and they’re served as spicy as patrons can handle them (or hotter). They’re very large, and when she personally handed me one on the sidewalk outside her restaurant during Daisy Days, I was hooked.

I’ve been to her establishment many times since then, and not just as one of 45 manly beer lovers. My wife, Amy, and I had a nice dinner there with another local couple awhile back. It felt like we were on Cheers, where everybody knows your name! People were walking from table to table, visiting each other and enjoying a wonderful culinary community.

This is a regular occurrence at Talley’s. It’s not a huge restaurant, after all — with just 18 tables, it seats only 77 guests (albeit very comfortably). The decor is something you might find in a trendy restaurant in the city, and like its urban counterparts, Talley’s sometimes has a wait. Locals love the place because the food and flavors are fresh and there’s always a chance to connect with friends old or new.

These aren’t the only reasons that Talley’s is so successful; Krista herself plays a role as well. She loves walking around the dining room to greet her guests with a smile, and her passion for her work shines through in the way she carries herself and treats everyone she meets.

If you visit Talley’s and Krista isn’t there, chances are she’s “doing her homework” somewhere else. A true student of the trade, she frequents Aguamiel, Standard Market Grill and other local establishments often. Is she networking with the owners or searching for fresh ideas? Personally, I’d wager that she simply she loves the restaurant business and wants to continue learning and growing whenever she can. She truly can’t get enough.

It’s a familiar feeling; her diners can’t get enough, either. From the seared tuna to the bacon-bleu burger; from the creole shrimp (grandma Talley’s recipe) to the panko-crusted chicken; and from the “new fashioned” cocktail to 45 orders of pork wings (all served hot at the same time); there are only two predictable things about Talley’s: whatever you order will inevitably be delicious, and you’re sure to come back for more.

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

Tally's Kitchen + Bar

Tally’s Kitchen + Bar

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ATT00790

Snow Hill – Enjoy the ride! “Talk of the Town”


 

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier – January 8, 2015

Photo taken by Clarendon Hills Doings

Photo taken by Clarendon Hills Doings

 

According to the manufacturer’s specifications, this sled was really only built for one.

But unlike most of the paper-thin, disposable sleds you see these days, this one was long and sturdy, and it looked like it could easily accommodate two riders. So  only stood to reason that friends as close as these three would fit with no problem!

The snow was still fresh at Park Avenue Park, and the boys waited impatiently behind the children, dads, moms and occasional grandpas that lined the skinny lane to the top of the sledding hill. The fence kept order for a fair, even pace … except for those exuberant teenagers who ran outside the fence to skip the line. These three Walker School boys would try to avoid those troublesome older kids at CHMS next year.

Holding tightly to the fence rail as they slipped their way up the icy path, the boys watched row after row of giggling toddlers in brightly colored snow pants sail down the hill. These babies didn’t really know how to sled; they took whatever path the hill chose for them! But the boys knew better.

You see, the hill had three courses. Sure, they all started at the same place … but each had vastly different results! One took you off to the right, usually ending in a slow slide toward a snowbank. (Snore.) The second was a faster (but still safe) run that took riders to a flat, open spot. Snow hill aficionados knew that this route would produce the longest run — which, by the way, was the goal of the ongoing competition between most of the sledding hill regulars.

The third route, however, was the granddaddy of them all. Known as “Flying High” (or “Airborne Death Trap,” depending on who you asked), this route had a hidden bonus. Sometime in the middle of the night, a few Hinsdale Central students brandishing shovels had fashioned an enormous bump at the bottom, right in the middle of the run. Any riders who took that route performed towering, death-defying stunts … whether they wanted to or not!

Of course, no Walker School kid who valued his life ever took that route. That was reserved for the crazy teenagers with nothing to lose. But as these three boys reached the top of the hill and plopped their sled down on the snow, they had one goal in mind: to sled a longer run than any Walker kid in history.

Unfortunately, they didn’t count on the unforeseen variable: one of the boys’ big brother at the top of the hill. Older, stronger and very mischievous, he gave the boys an unexpected shove-off not unlike the ones you see on TV in the Olympic downhill luge.

Screaming in terror, the boys careened down the hill on an entirely unplanned course. Picking up more speed as they hit a patch of ice, the sled skidded a bit, and then — to their horror — found the one rut that they were secretly hoping to miss. They were on course for the death trap!!

The next few seconds were a blur. One moment, the boys were hurtling downhill toward imminent doom. The next, they were suddenly and silently airborne, with blue sky below and snowy ground above and red sled flying out of reach and the terrified faces of concerned adults looking on from afar. All were spinning uncontrollably.

Then … miraculously … there was an earth-shattering thud as all three boys landed squarely on the sled, knocking the wind out of them and sending them flying to the flatland at the bottom of the hill. After a few miles of coasting, they finally, mercifully, came to rest.

The hill fell to silence in expectation of screams for help. The silence hung for a few seconds, and then … laughter filled the air. As the crowd breathed a sigh of relief, the boys euphorically rolled off the sled and, all grabbing the rope at once, pulled it toward the top of the hill for another run.

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

 

Park Avenue Park Clarendon Hills Snow Hill

Park Avenue Park Clarendon Hills Snow Hill

Park Avenue Park Clarendon Hills Snow Hil

Park Avenue Park Clarendon Hills Snow Hil

Building the Bump! Park Avenue Park Clarendon Hills Snow Hil

Building the Bump! Park Avenue Park Clarendon Hills Snow Hil

#ClarendonHillsRocks

Mary Brown – A life in Clarendon Hills “Talk of the Town”


Mary and Don Brown after being married at Christ Church of Oak Brook by Dr. Arthur H. DeKruyter

Mary and Don Brown after being married at Christ Church of Oak Brook by Dr. Arthur H. DeKruyter

From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier – January 22, 2015

When the officer arrived on the scene at Ann Street, he didn’t see anything unusual. It was just another routine call. But as he neared a small house backing up to the railroad tracks, he did hear a sound: a scraping, rustling sound like a small raccoon would make. It seemed to be coming from the roof.

Walking closer, he was surprised to find that it wasn’t a raccoon at all. There were two children on top of the house, peering over the edge!

No, they weren’t burglarizing the house or making roof repairs. It was a simple game of hide and seek. Still, it was obvious that they were scared because they’d been found!

“Girls, what are you doing up there?” the officer called in a big, booming voice. “What are your names?” When he found out that one of the girls was a Church girl, he was even more surprised. “You mean to tell me that your dad is the village manager, Lloyd Church?”

The officer gave the children a stern warning and sent them on their way. The girls ran all the way home, never looking back. And they probably picked a better hiding spot for the next game.

One of the little girls on the roof, Mary Brown (Church), shared this story with me last week. Of course, it was an old story; it happened in the 1950s! Mary has many fond memories of growing up in the Village of Clarendon Hills back then … in a time when things were a little simpler.

As a young girl, Mary and her friends would walk into the village, shop and lose track of time. Nobody had iPhones to beep at them and tell them they were late for appointments. In fact, these were the days when you could count the number of color TVs in town on one finger!

And Mary knew exactly where that one TV was. Fascinated by the exciting technology, Mary and her friends would sometimes go to the beautiful house on Golf Road belonging to the President of the Bank of Clarendon Hills. There, they would sneak a quick look through the family’s picture window, just to see that color TV! While today’s kids pout if their YouTube videos are slow to load, Mary and her friends had no problem with walking across town to watch network TV with no sound.

Oftentimes when she wandered into town, Mary would stop over at her dad’s office at the old village hall and sit in his secretary’s chair. Her father, Lloyd Church, was Clarendon Hills’ first manager (back then the position was called “superintendent”), and she enjoyed seeing him play such a large role in shaping and growing the community.

Little did that young girl know that sitting in that chair would, years later, motivate her to earn one of her own! In adulthood, Mary became a secretary herself. Her first job was working for Pat Davis, a local Realtor. She said that the work connected her well to the community; it was nice to know people and for people to know you.

With over 60 years of life in our wonderful town, Mary has a lot of very happy memories. One of her favorites is the carnival that the village schools used to put on to raise money, where all the kids would gather and enjoy the summer nights. In the winter, she enjoyed ice skating on Hamill’s pond, where Frances Hamill would watch them out of her front window. They would sled down the hill on one of her neighbor’s properties, the Allen’s house. Sadly, both of these properties are now developed (Hamill Lane and Allen Court), so there are houses where the skating and sledding once took place.  Also redeveloped are the two grocery stores that once existed downtown: Grocerland and Gingher’s. How nice it would be to have even one grocery store downtown today!

While she no longer sleds down that hill, today Mary can still be seen regularly around town pushing a stroller or walking with her grandchildren. She has 5: Cassidy, Gavin, Jackson, Tyler and Charlie. She and her husband, Don, are seen and engaged in almost all village functions. And after all these years, she still loves being a Clarendon Hills resident.

After all; it’s a wonderful place to live a life.

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

#ClarendonHillsRocks

Mildred and Bill Allen sitting and talking at Mary and Don Brown's new house on Oxford

Mildred and Bill Allen sitting and talking at Mary and Don Brown’s new house on Oxford

Allen Drive - Before it was developed into Allen Court

Allen Drive – Before it was developed into Allen Court

Hamill pond before Hamill was developed, now Hamill Lane

Hamill pond before Hamill was developed, now Hamill Lane

Mary Brown's Childhood House on Ann Street

Mary Brown’s Childhood House on Ann Street

Mary and Don Brown

Mary and Don Brown

Mary's Parents

Mary’s Parents

Mary's best friend, Barb

Mary’s best friend, Barb

Luminarias like you have never seen before – “Talk of the Town”


From Mike McCurry’s “Talk of the Town” column in The Clarendon Courier – December 26, 2014

It’s a simple recipe, but it’s a good one. So good, in fact, that it’s made our little village famous. One night each year, hundreds of people from miles around visit Clarendon Hills just to experience it. Driving slowly down our streets, they gaze through their car windows with wide eyes and huge smiles, taking it all in.

The recipe: a brown paper bag, a scoop of sand, and a candle. Three ingredients, one special night, and boundless joy. Thanks to the luminarias, Clarendon Hills is never more beautiful than on Christmas Eve.

If you were in town on Wednesday, you certainly know what I’m talking about. But if not, and you haven’t seen the luminarias before, I encourage you to check it out. Hop in the car with the family, play some Christmas music and drive around town before tucking the kids into bed next year. It is truly a breathtaking sight to behold.

Brown bags filled with sand line driveways and sidewalks throughout the village, with scarcely a broken link in the chain. As the sun sets and residents in coats and hats make their way outside to light the candles inside the bags, the streets come alive. Dark driveways and lawns are transformed into welcoming pathways of light. Homes, trees and walkways are bathed in a warm glow. House after house flickers and dances in a feast for the eyes and the heart.

Luminarias are said to have originated hundreds of years ago with Spanish merchants who were inspired by the paper lanterns they’d seen in China. Returning to Spanish territories that are now the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico, they lit these beautiful decorations during the Christmas season to light the way for Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

I really appreciate that idea: taking care to light the way for the Christ and inviting Him into our homes on Christmas Eve. In a culture where Christmas sometimes seems to be more about coupons and catalogs than anything else, the luminarias do a wonderful job of celebrating the reason for the season with beauty and warmth.

Sadly, the next morning is a different story. By the time children are first reaching into their stockings, the luminarias have become half-burned brown bags (or sopping wet messes if it’s rained). Sand has often poured out onto the driveway, spilling melted wax that leaves a lasting mark on the sidewalk. Like the wrapping paper and the tree, when Christmas ends, the luminarias become one more thing that needs to be cleaned up and thrown away.

But what about that message they stood for? When the candles are gone, does Christ’s invitation get revoked? Does the spirit dissipate when the tree disappears? And when the shiny new gifts we receive have turned into old stuff we store, does the gratitude of receiving get tucked away in a drawer as well?

I hope not.

As you come down from Christmas and get back into your routine this week, I encourage you to think of the luminarias. As you write your thank-you notes, try to relive the gratitude of receiving those gifts … and then pass that gratitude on to someone else. Whether it’s giving toys to a toy drive, neighbor, church, or school; giving some time and energy to a charity or shelter nearby; or simply nurturing a friend whose holiday was not so bright; there are so many opportunities to bring the spirit of Christmas into the new year and keep it with you all year long.

May your new year be as beautiful, inspiring, joyful and bright as our village is every December 24th!

Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princes; Indian Guide Dad;  a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker.  Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills.  It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings.  He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”. Mike McCurry’s office is located at 5 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 His blog can be found at mikemccurryhomesblog.wordpress.com 630-325-2800 or visit his website at www.mmccurry.com

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