Christmas Eve Wonder

Photo by: Megan Oteri

Photo by: Megan Oteri

What I remember most about Christmas is spending time with my family and the magic of Christmas Eve. The joy of spotting Santa in the sky and the holiness of the night as it curved into dawn of Christmas Day. We would wait up for my father on Christmas Eve, which was so exciting. He worked nights as a security guard at the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago. He would leave for work around 1 in the afternoon. Even though his shift started at 3, he would leave the house at 1 to catch the train into the city from the suburb where we lived. Mom had the house filled with Christmas smells and spices. My favorite was a mixture of orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and cloves simmering on the stove. It made the house smell so wonderful.

We would bake Christmas cookies and roll out the white dough and sprinkle green and red sugary crystals on top of each cookie. Snowmen, Christmas trees, bells, Santas, and elves. I don’t know how the afternoon passed. Sometimes we would wrap last-minute presents Mom needed help with. We would help get “The Little Room” ready for Christmas Eve. The Little Room was the name of the room attached to the garage. It was behind the house, about ten feet from the back door. It had a fireplace and that is where we put up the Christmas tree. It was such a magical place around the holidays.

With a fire crackling and the lights shimmering, we would sing along to the Christmas music on the radio and shake our presents to “see” what was inside. Even though we were allowed to open any gift under the tree on Christmas Eve, my sister and I always opened each other’s gifts that we got each other. Then it turned into tradition. I remember one year she saved her allowance for months to get me a monkey puppet. It had super long legs and arms and had a squeaky toy inside the mouth. It was brown and furry.

The most vivid memory is when Dad finally got home from work around midnight and we would squeal with delight, scampering around the house. Then we would run barefoot over the snow (it was Chicago – you could pretty much always bank on a white Christmas) and pitter patter through it, jumping from stone to stone on the circular stone path that led to the Little Room. And once inside the door, we would warm up by the fire and drink hot cocoa. Then we would open each other’s gifts — my sister and me — and my parents would watch. That is what I remember about Christmas. Well, Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is such a special time. Everyone is getting everything ready and it just is magical, no way around it. I love Christmas Eve more than Christmas morning.

I am embracing this tradition with my son, who is experiencing the wonder of Christmas. I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas with your loved ones and I hope you experience the wonder of the season, just as you did in the pockets of your childhood memory and in the creation of new memories.


Please check out my essay, “Presence” which was published on Mamalode. Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer called Mamalode, “America’s best parenting magazine.”Mamalode was featured in Forbes recently as a niche parenting magazine.

Here is a teaser of my essay:

“With a fire crackling and the lights shimmering, we would sing along to Christmas carols on the radio and shake our presents to “see” what was inside. Mom was Christmas Eve.”

Here is the link: I encourage you to like and comment on the website and share the link. Thank you. I appreciate your support and interest in my writing. Merry Christmas!

Above That Beautiful Blue Lake Michigan


Memories are deep within, their surface but a screen — a cover.
Like Lake Michigan’s deep water, my memories are deep too.
Chicago is home. Home in a way that is pig tails and cotton candy 4-H fairs. Home in the arms of my fire engine red red-headed mother.


We went to many meals at Glen Oak– nestled deep in vinyl maroon booths. Nestled in the nest of childhood. I had breakfast here this morning– feeling memory sleeves coat my arms. Warmth and cover. I could smell my mother’s cigarettes in memory alcoves as we always sat in the smoking section anywhere we went.


Well got to run. The train is pulling into downtown. I am home.

Vote Because Betty Said So

Poster by Betty Miller (my mom)

Betty (my mom)
A proud American

Be Proud to be An American


My mom wrote this during the 1968 election. She placed 800 of these flyers on cars around the university, which I believe was Northwestern.

Written in blue ink on the original flyer (photo above): “Because of a demonstration and draft card burning deal in our town the day before elections with threat of destroying voting machines — I put these signs with a small American flag on 800 cars around the university campus.  This was done the evening before elections.” – Betty Miller (my mom)

“BE PROUD – to be an American — remember Country First Self Second ~ “Constructive Criticism” is Necessary Only if you can better our Country — do it with constructive Actions not words and not any destructive ways — VOTE  For the man of your choice and be happy you  are free to choose!” – Betty Miller (my mom)

The next page reads (and for the life of me I can’t find the second original page she wrote in hand, but I did type it up years ago):

“Well, you must have  “Guts” or by now I would be “Scattered to the Winds.”

For many months in fact many years I have listened to you and tried to understand your many dreams and ideals now all I ask of you is please listen to me.

Don’t “Scatter to the Winds” all the heritages, ideals, and even lives of those who strived to make this country great for you. I am not saying any one country can be or is perfect — I am not saying some of your ideas are bad for they are not, but be most careful with the solution of yours, mine, and the country’s problems. Therein lays your answer — be constructive not destructive — vote — don’t destroy the right of others to vote.  March — but march for something not against something. In your literature you say there is no choice but there is — the candidates may not be of your choosing — but there is a choice — a choice to let those who want the privilege to vote — vote, don’t kill the freedom they have. Instead work for what you want — labor hard and you will be heard, but to approach this country’s situation as you are doing will only hurt the country — your fellow man and yourself.

Many men have died of their own free will for this country — always (up to recently) putting country before self and many are still doing it.  The problem comes when man puts himself before country. Don’t scatter the dreams of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and all the founders of this GREAT COUNTRY to the winds. Help build a better tomorrow, a better country, and better World by following legal means to do it and if enough of you do this YOU WILL BE HEARD AND LISTENED TO.

But follow the route you are taking — only you will be seriously hurt though you may put a few scars on the United States of America and they will heal — but will you?”

My mom, Betty, wrote that on the second page of the flyer.
Betty handed these out in Chicago the night before the election in 1968.

Vote because you can.

Photo by Megan Oteri ©