Holiday tales leave mark


POSTED: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

“;Who knew that at 8 (or 9) years old that my embarrassment would turn into something quite nice. With age comes wisdom, I guess.”;

That is what Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Haley Papageorge had to say upon learning that her story of the painful experience of being a singing angel at the church Christmas play had won the “;Honolulu Lite”; Weird, Strange or Funny (Mostly) True Christmas Story Contest.

Haley, who reads “;Honolulu Lite”; online, will receive a copy of my book, “;Hey, Waiter, There's an Umbrella in My Drink!”; (She had the choice of that book or my first one, which is out of print: “;Hey, Tourist, Buy This Book!”; I think she chose “;Hey, Waiter”; because I told her it was fatter.)

There were several great entries and a few that missed the mark. A friend of mine submitted a touching tale of when he was 3 years old and had no one to play with. But the story took place in the summer, not over the holidays, defined as from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Another entrant wrote a heart-wrenching story of watching her father die in a hospital one Christmas that was not weird, strange or funny, just exceedingly sad.

Another friend told me about the time he came out of a bar slightly inebriated around Christmas wearing reindeer horns, and a couple of thugs roughed him up and stole the horns. A good Samaritan retrieved the horns for him and ran off the bad guys. But my buddy failed to write the story down, so, as entertaining as it was, it wasn't in the running.

Another friend did put his “;coming of age”; tale in writing, and it turned out to be one of the best. Here it is followed by some other standouts.


A Christmas Message

By Martin McMorrow

I was eight years younger than my brother Bill. He believed it his duty to guide me safely though the trials in judgment and actions which I would encounter as I went forth into the cruel and unforgiving world. I assume that was his intention.

He must have felt that if he started by first teaching me humility, I would have a solid steppingstone from which all my other decisions in life would be weighed. His teaching techniques went like this: For several Christmases before I was in grade school, I would ask Bill, “;What are you giving me for Christmas?”; He would answer, “;Dog poop.”; It was a textbook-perfect way to control my optimism, feel true humility and learn not to set unrealistic goals - virtues and feelings I still value today.

However, just before my seventh Christmas I decided to beat my brother to the punch. I went outside in the yard where there was ample poop (dog variety) to collect. The “;Friends Don't Let Friends Scoop Poop”; movement had not yet gained strength in 1946.

I carefully wrapped up the little package of the stuff and tied a little “;To Bill, From Santa”; tag to the gift. I placed it under the Christmas tree and waited for Christmas Day. But before the end of the week, I had second thoughts about the wisdom of what I had done. I especially worried about how my mother, grandmother and grandfather would view this learning experience. With some misgiving, I removed the present on Christmas Eve. Bill never got it.

Bill and I have long since gone our separate ways. We don't teach each other much these days. Most of my 70 Christmases are hard to distinguish from one another. But I have no trouble remembering the Christmas when I thought I would teach my brother humility but instead decided to let him learn it on his own.


When It Rains It Reindeers

By Aileen Blanc

A few years ago I got tired of hanging Christmas lights around the perimeter of the house, so I bought a reindeer for the front lawn. The neighbors across the street joined in and bought two reindeer. The following year I bought two more. More neighbors joined in with more lighted deer.

One year a sign appeared on my lawn that read “;Reindeer Crossing.”; By then the deer were really breeding. My herd was up to six. And by then, everyone on the street had reindeer.

A young dentist was the last holdout. Sears had a sale, but by the time he got there, they were out of reindeer. So he scoured the island, and now he is the proud owner of three.

My deer have been getting old, and the yard men are slowly killing them off by “;accidentally”; clipping their lights with weed whackers. During a recent wind storm I came home to find my deer lying on their sides. I thought they had been shot.

Right now three are still standing. They're half-lit. And that's not from spiked egg-nog. Only their antlers turn on. I think the seven reindeer across the street with their fancy red bows and LED lights are intimidating my aging herd. Next year I might just put a bow on the mailbox.


A Dark New Year's Tale

By Roy Horikawa

It's New Year's Eve in the early '80s at our little neighborhood in Wahiawa. As it's getting close to midnight, all the surrounding neighbors are stringing up their arsenal of 10 million firecrackers. My father is, too. He is in charge of erecting the famous “;flag pole”; that will hold the strings of firecrackers. But as he starts raising the first set of 20,000, the pole snaps. Frantic, he scrambles to find a replacement as the midnight hour ticks near! But there is no spare pole long enough to hold the behemoth fireworks!

With just seconds to spare, he hurls a rope over the power lines overhead, secures one end to a long string of firecrackers and hoists away, barking the order to light the first round as midnight strikes.

It's an awesome sight to see, the serpentine string of fireworks blasting away as it is being raised 20 to 30 feet overhead, higher than any neighbor could dare attempt. It's so impressive my dad decides, “;Hey, two must be better than one!”;

So he directs No. 2 son, me, to secure two strings of 20,000 to the end of the rope. He's right, two is better than one. This time it is even more impressive than the first - until the weight of the two strings and the tension of the rope causes one power line to get close enough to another line to create an arc about as bright as a lightning bolt. Then a nearby transformer explodes, sending a shower of sparks over the revelers below.

Lights out! The whole neighborhood is pitch black. One minute it's a war zone and then - dead quiet. We clean up all the red paper on the street, and the HECO crews come to restore power. Needless to say, it was a memorable New Year's, and a lesson was learned by everyone, especially my father, a retired fire chief.


E-mail Charles Memminger at cmemminger@