Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Holidays (page 3 of 5)

Pimping a Post

With Halloween two days away, I thought I would pimp a post, in this case a Halloween short story I wrote about Tipping Outhouses on Halloween. Take time to read it and vote.

Happy Halloween!

Tipping Outhouses — A Halloween Short Story

Back when I was growing up in Cherry, Illinois often heard stories about kids tipping outhouses on Halloween. It was a popular Halloween prank that sometimes backfired.

The Great Korean Pumpkin Carve-Off

Some Western cultural events or customs like sending Christmas cards or giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day have traveled well in Asia—in terms of how well they have caught on, with a few modifications here and there.

Halloween has also caught on in places like South Korea, Japan, and Thailand where the influx of Western English teachers has brought such customs of costumes, trick and treating, and carving Jack o’ Lanterns to the English classroom when teaching students about the holiday.

Sometimes though, there can be a clash of cultures like what happened at The Great Korean Pumpkin Carve-Off at a language institute in Seoul.

It was 1991, and I was teaching English at ELS, a well-known and quite famous language institute in southern Seoul (there was another branch located downtown). When Halloween neared, a few teachers got together and came up with some ideas on how the school and students could celebrate the holiday—from a haunted house in the basement and a costume contest to making decorations and finally, a Jack o’ Lantern carving contest.

Every teacher who had a class during the day could have their students participate in any one of these activities. Most classes wanted to carve a pumpkin because most students had never done anything like this before. Although pumpkins are indigenous to Korea, they are not like the ones, say found in the United States. Korean pumpkins are short and squat and a pale, brownish orange. Not exactly what you call ideal pumpkins for carving, but whoever was in charge of procuring the pumpkins managed to find some that had a little more height to them to facilitate carving as well as those with more color to them.

Pumpkins are used a lot in Korean cooking, especially for a kind of pumpkin porridge that is quite delicious. On the other hand though, and something I would learn to my own embarrassment, calling someone a “pumpkin” is not a term of endearment like it might be in the States. Instead in Korea, it implies being short and ugly.

On the day of The Great Pumpkin Carve-Off (the day before Halloween) the pumpkins were handed out to all the classes that wanted to participate; additionally, there would be a Jack O’ Lantern Contest the next day with prizes for the best one, funniest one, ugliest one, and the scariest.

The students in my class really got into carving their Jack O’ Lantern; they had fun hollowing out the pumpkin, getting their hands dirty with the pumpkin goo that they pulled out in handfuls and promptly disposed of (after threatening to throw some of it at their classmates) in a trashcan. Of course, they were supposed to be speaking English while they were carving their pumpkins and many did.

One of my students was an ex-Korean Air flight attendant and she had fun pulling out some handfuls of pumpkin goo—not exactly something she had ever encountered serving coffee or tea at 37,000 feet. Another student, who was an artist, took charge of coming up with a design for a scary Jack O’ Lantern.

In the meantime, while all these students were busily carving their pumpkins, the cleaning women—four middle-aged Korean women—responsible for cleaning the classrooms and bathrooms, could not believe what they were seeing: perfectly good pumpkin insides being thrown out by wasteful students and apparently, judging from all the laughter and giggling, being encouraged by their Western teachers. This was pumpkin blasphemy in their eyes and they were not about to let all that good pumpkin goo go to waste.

Like hawks circling high above looking for food, these four women swooped into each classroom and scooped up as much of the pumpkin innards they could get their hands on and salvage as much of it in the communal kitchen on the second floor of the four-storey building. Of course, as soon as these women burst in the classrooms and began to salvage whatever pumpkin viscera they could, the teachers and students were a little confused and there were a few, not-so kind words exchanged between cleaning women, teachers, and some of the older students, who might have outranked the four cleaning women in status, but not in age.

The Great Pumpkin Carve-Off had quickly turned into The Great Pumpkin Stand-Off as both sides refused to budge. Finally, one of the Korean office staff had to mediate a truce that allowed the carving to proceed without any more incident.

In the end the cleaning women won out: they were allowed to collect the pumpkin innards as soon as the students had hollowed out their pumpkins and the students continued to have fun carving their pumpkins. As for my class, it was a win-win situation: the cleaning women got their pumpkin goo and my students won first prize for the scariest Jack o’ Lantern.

Popcorn Balls

Popcorn Balls

Gee lady,

is that all I get;

a stale popcorn ball

dyed with red

food coloring—

when the folks

next door

are handing out

mini Snickers

and Butterfingers

Copyright 2009 ©  Jeffrey Alan Miller

Wax Teeth

Wax Teeth

I never could understand

the novelty and appeal of

cherry-flavored wax teeth.

You know, the buck teeth

and vampire fangs—

or the bright red thick

wax lips

to fool friends or

provoke teachers

when worn in class.

Once the Halloween fun

was over

and what little flavor

had been chewed out,

they were just

a soggy, tasteless

wad of wax.

© 2009 Jeffrey Alan Miller

Hunkering down for Chuseok, again

Chuseok BoundIt’s Chuseok time again in Korea and for the next three days the country will be on vacation mode with around 20 million Koreans heading back to their hometowns to be with families or others just staying put. (With the Swine Flu scare, many Koreans are doing just that—staying at home and avoiding crowded buses or trains that they might have taken to get to their hometowns.)

Like Sollal (the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year), during Chuseok most of the country literally shuts down for one-three days and a million or so Koreans travel home. There will be some places opened today—like shops and restaurants—but tomorrow (Saturday) most everything will be closed even 24-hour convenience stores. Even those convenience stores that are opened will be practically bare because very few deliveries will be made the next three days.

Home plus, a popular hyper market in Korea has been packed with shoppers the past week stocking up for the holiday as well as the food needed for the ancestral worship ceremonies.


On Chuseok, Korean families prepare an enormous spread of food for these ancestral worship ceremonies that include everything from Korean pears and rice cakes to chapjae (a noodle and vegetable dish) as well as Bulgogi, tender, marinated beef. One of the major foods prepared and eaten during the holiday is songpyeon, a crescent-shaped rice cake prepared with rice or non-glutinous rice powder that is filled with sesame seeds, beans, red beans or chestnuts, and steamed upon a bed of pine needles.

On Chuseok morning, families hold memorial services in their homes for their ancestors called Charye. After food has been prepared in front of an altar-like arrangement, sometimes with photos of the deceased, the family bows and then enjoys the food that has been prepared. Some families go to the tomb of their ancestors, a ritual called Seongmyo, and after trimming the plants and grass around the tomb (called Beolcho), they have the ceremony there.


Originally the holiday was called Hangawi, which took place on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar to thank their ancestors for the harvest. Although no one is quite sure how Chuseok became the harvest holiday, numerous scholars believe that the celebration of Chuseok may have originated from shamanistic rituals of the harvest moon.

A common misnomer associated with the holiday is that it is a Korean Thanksgiving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps, given the presence of US military personnel in Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, someone must have started calling Chuseok Korea’s Thanksgiving to explain it to American service members first and later, any foreigner who came to Korea. It is probably better to call it, when asked what the holiday is, a harvest or ancestral holiday.

Having lived in Korea since 1990, I have spent a number of the Chuseok holidays here. I don’t mind staying at home; I have already done enough traveling around Korea and besides, with so many Koreans taking to the highways to travel to their hometowns and most buses and trains already booked up, you can’t really go anywhere anyhow, so one is better off staying close to home.

When I lived in Seoul, Chuseok or Sollal was always a good time to do a bit of sightseeing around the city because, with so many people leaving the city to travel to their hometowns, it was easy to get around the city. In fact, many people—Korean and foreign—look forward to Chuseok and Sollal for that very reason, to be able to get out and do some sightseeing without having to worry about traffic and crowds.

And perhaps for many Koreans and foreigners, once you have had your fill of the Chuseok feast, it is a good time to hunker down and just relax.

This Chuseok will be another quiet and low-key one for me. I might go for a walk and I will definitely be working on my novel. What I am really looking forward to the next three days is for these next three days to pass by quickly because I’m just looking ahead to December 21—that is what I have had my sights on for the past eight-and-a-half months, and every passing day brings me one day closer to Aon, Jeremy Aaron and Bia.

Knee-high by the 4th of July

CornI wrote this blog post a year ago and the other night, I looked at it again after a friend had mentioned “knee-high by the Fourth of July.” Like a fine wine, it reads so much better now than when I first wrote it. I like this essay a lot. It’s one that I feel deserves a much wider audience.

It was back in the summer of 1981, right around this time in late June and I was riding in a van with Dick Verucchi and Alan Thacker on our way to Dixon, Illinois for a gig at a youth center. The owner of the youth center knew Dick and Alan from their Buckacre days and had been trying to get them—now as The Jerks—to play in Dixon for some time.

That was the summer—that rock and roll summer—of roadying for The Jerks, hang-ing out with Chris, going to Chicago Fest, and later a road trip to Atlanta.

As we drove to Dixon that hot, humid, summer afternoon, crisscrossing through America’s heartland of corn and soybean fields, Dick remarked that the corn seemed a bit taller than usual for this time of the summer.

“I remember growing up and listening to old timers say, ‘knee high by the Fourth’ but it’s not the way anymore,” said Dick. “Look at that corn out there, Sparks. That’s some mighty tall corn for June.”

“What do you think is the reason?” I asked, wondering if this was either another Dick Verucchi joke, or if he was really serious.

It wasn’t a joke. And Dick wasn’t really being that serious. He was just talking about corn and that it just seemed taller than in the past.

Today I was wondering what I’d be writing about or blogging about if I were back home right now? Would I be thinking about going on the road to Dixon with The Jerks and writing about Dick’s quip about the corn? Or would I be writing about an-other time and another place?

Sometimes when I am thinking about what I am going to write my mind and my soul begin to wander and invariably I am brought back to the Midwest; brought back to places like Cherry, Oglesby, and LaSalle three towns that I grew up in before I left home once and for all (or so I thought), but three towns that I still call home.

I guess it’s only natural to want to go back in your mind; kind of like some invisible umbilical cord to your past. But it’s more than that. It’s more than being a little wistful. It’s more than waxing nostalgic.

The death of one of my childhood friends this past week brought me closer to “back home” and reminded me of my humble roots. It really shook the tree as it were and made me think about “home” a lot.

I was thinking that if I were back home right now, how much I would love to go for a ride in the country. Of course, that is some really wistful thinking—not just for me, but for anyone back home with the price of gas the way it is now—but I was thinking how nice and perhaps how romantic it would be to head down some lonely stretch of blacktop, between the fields of corn and soybeans with the windows rolled down.

Perhaps in the distance there would be some giant gray and black thunderheads rolling in from the west. Maybe you know the kind I am talking about, this amor-phous rumpled black and gray mass of clouds filling the sky and reaching to the heavens. And if so, I’d probably be able to detect a hint of the impending rain in the stifling afternoon heat.

And later, if I could still find one somewhere, I would sit outside a Tastee Freeze with its yellow and pink neon framed against the night and enjoy a banana split or maybe—as that John Mellencamp mantra about Jack and Diane went—sucking on a chili dog.

And just about then, with those storm clouds overhead and mottled purple flashes and streaks of lightning shooting across the sky, you could feel the night getting cooler and smell that rain in the air and hear crickets chirping away—sounding the alarm before the first crack of thunder resonates across the land.

And you know, right now that would seem more exotic and charming than all the Golden Buddhas, mountain temples, and ancient Khmer ruins that I can see over here.

I haven’t had my fill yet of these things because I a migratory bird by nature and I need to see what is out there to report, document, catalog, interpret and under-stand. You know, the unexamined life is not worth living and all that stuff.

I am happy that I have had both worlds as it were, but right now this Friday evening in Korea I am wondering if the corn is already knee-high back home in Illinois.

Be my Valentine

vintagecards-1Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween was one of those neat, fun-stuff-to-do holidays when you are in elementary school because you got to get out of a few hours of class to make decorations and do whatever observance that was associated with the holiday.

In other words, it was a chance to screw off, make a mess, and in the end, have a party.

In preparation for any of these holidays and other observances that fell during the school year, teachers would set aside some class time, usually during art class for the students to make decorations. Not all grades were the same though and some teachers were just better than others when it came to preparing for and eventually celebrating holidays.

At Washington Grade School in Oglesby, Illinois Mrs. Sayers’ Third Grade was by far the best grade for celebrating Valentine’s Day. Kids in the Fourth and Fifth Grades raved about her Valentine’s Day party the same way they raved about Sixth Grade where the teacher taught the kids Spanish and had all kinds of cool Mexican Heritage observances.

After Mrs. Sayers’ successful Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas celebrations, when we came back to school after our Christmas/New Years’ break, we were all looking forward to Valentine’s Day. In between we would celebrate George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays on their actual birthday and not some special President’s Day for people to get a three-day weekend.

A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Sayers would break out the red, white, and pink construction paper, Elmer’s Glue, and craft scissors (the kind with the blunt ends so we couldn’t stab ourselves) and we would set out to make various decorations for our classroom. Most important were the “bags” we would construct (actually they were small, yet heavy duty grocery bags that we would cover with red construction paper) and then embellish with hearts, lace, and our names where our Valentine’s Day cards would be surreptitiously deposited in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day (more about these cards later).

Some students were natural born artists when it came to making pretty much anything from construction paper. Nothing seemed out their constructive construction paper reach. On other hand, I was one of the students who was more apt at deconstruction and no matter how easy the project was, I always ended up with bits of paper glued to my fingers and the final project looking nothing like the model we were supposed to make.

I had a heck of a time making the red and pink hearts that would embellish the bags. For anyone who has ever had to make a heart out of construction paper, the process is quite simple. First, you fold a sheet of the paper in half and then you draw half a heart along the fold. Next, you carefully cut that half of the heart and when you unfolded the paper you would have a perfect heart.

Well, not exactly in my case. Mine always seemed lopsided and uneven. After a few unsuccessful tries with my less than desirable construction paper/cutting skills I found out that the perfect way to mend a broken, albeit lopsided heart was to ask Mrs. Sayers, who had the patience of a saint and the cutting skills of a surgeon for assistance.

While a few of us struggled with our Valentine’s Day bags, those students who had already finished their bags, which were now proudly hanging from one wall, got to make decorations for the room. These were usually the same kids time and time again and were the envy of those of us who gave new meaning to the expression, “all thumbs.”

Once all the Valentine’s Day bags had been finished (mine was easy to spot: it was the one with the lopsided pink heart) and were hanging from the wall and classroom decorated, our work, at least for now was done. Now, we would have to go out to buy our Valentine’s Day cards and distribute them in the bags.

In Oglesby the best place and in fact, the only place to buy our cards was at the Ben Franklin dime store. They came in various assortments and sizes and could set you back a dollar or two. Once you had the cards it was just a matter of signing them and maybe saying something sweet and kind-proportionate of course to how much you liked the person.

In the Third Grade we were not too young to know the intricacies of what it meant to be popular; when the contents of those Valentine’s Day bags were poured out onto desks on Valentine’s Day it was easy to see who was popular and who was not by the number of cards a student had received. Mrs. Sayers liked a level and fair playing field a student could always count on a card from her but a teacher’s card didn’t really count and nor did one from Betty F. whose mother worked at the Ben Franklin and got a discount on those cards.

I did okay come Valentine’s Day and the number of cards I got, though I think some were mercy cards from classmates whose parents (probably leading members of the PTA) made their kids give a card to all their classmates. Obviously, the popularity contest extended to outside the classroom.

All the hard work that went into making our Valentine’s Day bags and decorations as well as writing out all those cards all came together on Valentine’s Day with a small party and enough sugar to tide us over until Halloween. Mrs. Sayers was famous for her cherry cupcakes and other students brought various baked goods to class in addition to candy-especially those tiny candy hearts. So while we stuffed our mouths and bellies with cupcakes, cookies, and candy we read our cards. And found out just how much we were liked by our classmates.

I might have been too young to understand the complexities of what it meant to “have a crush” on someone, though I was pretty sure that was what I had with Valerie Schallhorn in First Grade and the first part of Second Grade at Cherry Grade School in Cherry, Illinois. Now, I think I was about to have a crush on another girl and my first one at Washington since transferring here mid way through Second Grade. One of the first cards I read, as I chewed one of Mrs. Sayers’ heavenly delicious cupcakes, came with the message (in what was easily discernible as girl’s handwriting) “Be my Valentine. I think you are funny and cute” and signed Janie.

Janie sat in the first row in the front (Mrs. Sayers had us seated alphabetically) and was talking to a girl sitting across from her, but when she saw me looking over at her she smiled.

Be my Valentine, Janie. I would have a crush on her for the rest of elementary school.

Chinese New Year in Korea — Happy New Year of the Ox!


Today is the Chinese or Lunar New Year or Sollal as it is called in Korean and most of the nation has shut down as hundreds of thousands of Koreans have either headed to their hometowns or are now celebrating the day with their families. It is the second biggest holiday in Korea and if you are a foreigner here without any family it can be quite lonely and depressing. Last year I was able to take a week’s vacation around Sollal and actually get in an extra two days and fly to Laos to be with On for ten days. This year though I’ve been hunkering down in my room with a steady diet of downloaded TV programs and movies (I am watching The Godfather trilogy today) to get through the holiday which lasts until Wednesday.

I’ve already stocked up on enough supplies to get me through the next few days because most shops and stores are closed here. Most shops and restaurants were open over the weekend, but not so today with many closed. I did go out for a walk and some were open. Kind of eerie and depressing at the same time to be away from your loved ones in a foreign country during this holiday that is all about being with one’s loved ones-kind of a weird irony, too.

A few years ago, when I was writing columns for the Korea Times and living in Seoul, I wrote this column about Sollal.

All those boxed gift sets of Spam that I’ve seen around the city the past few days when I have stopped in at convenient stores or supermarkets can only mean one thing: Sollal or Lunar New Year is just a few days away.

This coming weekend, the entire nation will be on holiday mode again as families gather to celebrate this very important holiday on the Lunar Calendar-second in importance only to Chusok (Harvest Moon Festival) in autumn. Although these days it seems that many young Koreans opt for skiing trips or travel abroad during the three-day holiday, countless other Koreans will take to the nation’s roads, railways, and skies for this annual and traditional-steeped pilgrimage home.

While the holiday is not all about the giving of boxed gift sets (I don’t know anyone who does), a bit of price gouging by merchants (nine Korean oranges cost me nearly 3,000 won the other day) or homebound travelers jamming the highways, the holiday is best characterized by ancestral worship ceremonies. Known as “jesa”, the preparation of food and the ancestral worship ceremony form the critical mass of Korean culture during this holiday.

korea_february_2007_002For the expatriate community in Korea though, Sollal can be a much-appreciated mini-vacation, which depending on when it falls in any given year can be a reprieve from the monotony of another cold Korean winter. On the other hand, with the entire nation on holiday, some of our favorite haunts might be closed including your favorite pizza shop or watering hole.

Nonetheless, having a few days off is a great opportunity to get out and explore some of the country even in the dead of winter or maybe even have a mini vacation abroad. Unfortunately, if you haven’t made any plans for the holiday, it’s probably too late to head off anywhere around the nation or overseas.

Just the other day I was in my friendly travel agency sorting out travel arrangements for an upcoming trip, when my travel agent, Ms. Park was on the phone with a desperate customer who had waited until the last minute to make travel arrangements for the holiday, and in this case Vietnam. With the patience of a saint, Ms. Park tried her best to find some holiday destination for this travel procrastinator. One thing is for certain, if you are going to be here for any extended length of time, you learn fast to make those travel arrangements way in advance.

However, if you are one of those expats with nothing to do and nowhere to go-instead of hunkering down in your room or apartment with a few days supply of ramen and DVD’s to ride out the holiday-it’s not a bad time to get out and explore some of the nation’s cultural attractions. Aside from some of Seoul’s major attractions like Kyongbok Palace and Changdok Palace, there’s probably no better time (other than Chusok) to see some of the city or check out some of those travel destinations close to the city when you don’t have to fight the usual crowds.

To be sure, I can think of no better time to be in Seoul than these holidays. While I can’t speak for people living in cities and towns other than Seoul, I know when Sollal rolls around, it is one of the best times to be in the capital city when the streets are nearly deserted. (It’s nice traveling from one side of the city to the other without the usual traffic snarl.) Unlike Chusok, when I am usually out of the country on vacation, I always look forward to getting out (weather permitting) and explore a bit of the city’s cultural attractions or destinations close to the city like Kanghwa Island or Namhansansong Fortress during the Sollal holiday.

Over the years I have been lucky when it comes to finding something to do when the nation is on this extended holiday mode. While I have always enjoyed this mini-vacation during the winter, of all the Sollal that have come and gone in the time I have been here, one of my fondest ones was when I had the chance to go to Mt. Sorak for the first time.

I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation in Korea and a chance to experience a bit of Sorak’s majestic winter beauty. While the weather may or may not cooperate with a generous supply of snow this year, there’s no question that Korea is at its beautiful best when the hills and valleys are transformed into a winter wonderland.

Do yourself a favor and get out during the holiday. Even if you aren’t up for any traveling, there’s still plenty to see and do and without having to fight all the crowds and traffic. In the meantime, if you are going to be here for awhile you might want to start making those travel plans for the next holiday.

As for those boxed gift sets, even though I am going to be celebrating my sixteenth Sollal in Korea, I have yet to receive one (I have given a few though). Although I might take offense if someone gave me one of soap or toothpaste (might think the giver was sending me some kind of a message) I would love to get a box of Spam or green tea. Just be sure you give it to me before the holiday because there’s one thing you can count on when the whole nation is on this extended weekend-most of the stores will be closed.

Ghosts of Christmas Past — A snowy night in the Illinois Valley

On a quiet, snowy Tuesday night in December 1980, I am sliding and fishtailing down Water Street on my way to Murphy’s Saloon where The Jerks are playing that evening.

It’s a good thing there are no other cars on the street-that runs through an industrial section of Peru, Illinois that in turn is located on the banks of the Illinois River-with the way I have been sliding and skidding along. It’s the first real heavy snowfall that I have driven on in years and I am having the time of my life.

It’s been a bittersweet and tragic December. First there was John Lennon being gunned down outside his Dakota apartment; then it was coming home for the holidays after finishing my first full-length semester at Southern Illinois University to find out that my grandmother was in the hospital. My major at SIU was supposed to be filmmaking but after all the concerts and parties, well let’s just say my grade point average for that semester gave new meaning to the term swan dive. No problem, I would have a strong C going into my third semester. And as for my grandmother, she was just in the hospital as a precaution after suffering some dizziness. She would be out in time for Christmas.

So there I was, sliding and skidding along Water Street. I really had no business to be out that night; after all I had seen The Jerks the past weekend, but a lot of people would be there like my very good friend Chris Vasquez. We had bumped into each other one night in October, the first time we had seen each other in over four years and we were becoming tight again.

What I like most about December snow is that if the conditions are just right-temperature and moisture wise-when it does start to snow you can be in for a lot of the white stuff. As long as it stays right around freezing. Don’t want it to get too cold. Then it’s not so fun sliding down the street after you have locked the brakes.

And that’s just what happened in the morning of the 23rd when that white started to come down and come down and just kept on coming down the rest of the afternoon and early evening. It had caught everyone by surprise, not the least of which were the city workers, the snow removal guys who couldn’t get enough trucks out in time to start clearing the streets. And the snow kept on coming down.

When I finally slid into a parking space in front of Murphy’s Saloon, which had once been a small grocery store in the 1930s, it didn’t look like too many people had made it out that night. Still, there was a good crowd inside-mostly the regulars, those who followed The Jerks wherever they played in the Illinois Valley (LaSalle-Peru-Oglesby-Spring Valley) at places like Murphy’s, Friday’s Saloon (just down the street from Murphy’s) and Three N’ Company on St. Vincent’s Avenue on the north end of LaSalle.

The Jerks were this popular New Wave cover band that played a lot of New Music covers by bands like The Vapors, The Police, XTC, The Jags, and The Fabulous Poodles with a lot of 60s rock-The Beatles, The Stones, and The Kinks-thrown in for good measure. Comprised of three former members of Buckacre–Dick Verucchi, Alan Thacker, and Dave “Bodine” Morgan–along with Al Schupp, The Jerks were one of the area’s more popular bands along with Longshot. Back in October of that year, the News Tribune had an article about them and other bands playing the local bar circuit, calling it a “resurgence of rock and roll.” Other than this night when only the courageous and diehard braved the elements to get down to Murphy’s just to dance and party, The Jerks packed them in wherever they played.

That’s what really made the night special. There it was, the night before Christmas Eve, the whole area blanketed with a couple inches of snow that would stay for a couple of days, and just being with people that you really wanted to be with because you all liked the same music. Kind of tapped into the magic of the season. That’s what it is all about, coming home for the holidays and being with loved ones and friends and enjoying your time together.

And then later that night, or should I say early in the morning, with the head buzzing from all the one hits and beer, my ears ringing from the music, I am driving back home down First Street in LaSalle which was still covered with snow. As I slowly maneuvered my car down that snowy street, I gaze up at the illuminated Christmas tree on the top of these cement silos for Illinois Valley Cement. Every year they put up a Christmas tree on top that you could see for miles and now, it was like some beacon guiding me home.

Many Christmases have come and gone since that night; some good, some not so good. When I need to draw upon some of the Christmas and Yuletide magic of those years gone by, I often travel back to that night in 1980.


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