Cover Story

Holiday Stories From OIT

This is NOT Al Shelton!

During December, many of you submitted your favorite holiday stories from your past. The following are selections for your festive, post-holiday reading pleasure!

Christmas Tree Forts

Imagine growing up in Miami, Florida where everything is green all year round! No season of leaves to rake, bracing winds, cold noses; a place where 'evergreen' takes on a whole new meaning. But as kids, we still made magic happen - both while our neighborhoods' holiday trees were decorated and most especially when the trees were discarded in the week following the holiday. Our mission: roll out the bikes, get the rope and bring those trees home! It was time to build the annual Christmas tree fort!

It took 2 to 3 days, 10 to 15 trees, and every kid in the neighborhood pitched in. We were caught up in a whole new kind of holiday spirit and every year it was something special. When construction was complete, we all filed in silently and just breathed the aroma from the trees. We imagined we were surrounded by snow, caught up in a blizzard and then...the board games began! We thought cards and Monopoly were created for times like this and the game(s) continued into the night. Our Mom was pretty cool and she provided flashlights, hot dogs for everyone and popcorn too. This was popcorn in a pot mind you - "from scratch" my kids say now.

Christmas Tree forts - the best kind of winter holiday fun in sunny Florida!

- Dawn Francis-Chewning, Business Analyst, Academic Technology Services

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Santa in the Furnace?

I grew up in Indiana on the Michigan and Ohio border and we had a wood burning furnace that provided central heat to our home. At night, we would let the fire die down while we slept. I was the youngest cousin by 3 years and younger than my sister by 6 years. I don't remember how old I was but they knew about Santa and I did not...until...they woke me up and took me down to the furnace to show me Santa's badly burned hat that had been found in the ashes.

I was told Christmas was off and ruined for several-thousand kids. They deny this tomfoolery and have no recollection of doing it but my Aunt promises it was true as she comforted me that night. Yes, it was cruel but in hindsight it's a story that truly makes me giggle.

- Nicole McFarland, ITSM, Integration

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Don't Squeeze the Charmin

My grandfather was a practical joker and here is one of his last Christmas jokes that had us all laughing and crying as we unwrapped our presents.

Every year, my grandparents (Gram and P-pop as we called them) would give us money and P-pop would find a way to play a trick on us or find a new devilish way to give us our Christmas money. One year in the mid 1980's, starting about May, whenever we would go to Gram and P-pop's, the screen door would be locked so we would have to ring the doorbell. Gram would yell "just a minute" and for the next 20 minutes we would hear Gram and P-pop laughing and giggling as they ran through the house.

This would happen all summer and the length of time we would have to wait at the door listening to them giggle and laugh grew. When Christmas finally arrived we each were presented with a roll of toilet paper. Then we knew why it took them so long to come to the door. They had unrolled each roll (6 in total) of toilet paper and rolled them back up randomly placing ones, fives, tens and twenty dollar bills throughout the roll of toilet paper as they rerolled each roll. To "unwrap" our present, we had to unroll the whole roll of toilet paper to find our Christmas cash!

- Sherri Meador, Associate Director, IT F&A

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The Tooth

Around my Granny's 70th Christmas, she announced to the entire family, gathered for a great holiday feast and gift exchange, that she had a special gift just for me. Everyone moved towards the couch where I was sitting and Granny presented me with a tiny box, wrapped in colorful paper.

It was about the size of a ring box and, thinking that she was perhaps passng down a family heirloom for me to bestow on a potential bride, I tore it open with gusto. Inside the box, carefully resting on a layer of gauze, was...a human tooth.

The tooth was covered by a large gold crown, worn smooth and dulled by decades of chewing. Attached to the bottom of the crown was the tooth enamel itself, yellowed, with bloody tendrils still in sight from a recent extraction. It was the most gruesome thing I had ever seen.

"Granny," I stammered, "What is this?" She replied, "Well, when you were a boy, you told me you admired my gold tooth and wanted one of your own. So, when that one became abscessed I had the dentist save it for you!"

I still own this artifact. It's still in the tiny box, except with words written on the top to warn unsuspecting prying eyes from a chilling discovery. Those words say:

"Beware: Tooth!"

- Wade Moricle, Marcomm Specialist, Integration

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Mean Santa

Growing up with five siblings was never easy for my mom, so she always got a part-time job at the local toy store. So we always received lots of toys and a new bike every year.

One Christmas, my sisters and I were arguing over every toy we got, never wanting to share or play nice. My mother continuously told us during the day that we needed to behave or Santa would come back to reclaim our gifts and give them to children that did not get anything. "Santa does not like naughty children." Of course, we thought she was just talking to hear herself talk.

To our surprise, we woke up the day after Christmas and the toys were gone! All of them. Mother said, "I told you to behave." My sisters and I sulked all day until we saw the kids in the neighborhood enjoying our toys.

Talk about a lesson learned. PS: we never got our toys back.

- Bonita Russell, Supervisor, Call Center