Open Phones: Workshopping Your Holiday Stories

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Whether you celebrate one of the religious holidays or just a few days off from work, this time of year is a time to gather with friends and family. And chances are there will be lots of the same stories being told at your dinner table.

We open the phones for you to tell that classic family story - or try out a new one. Plus, WNYC reporter Jim O'Grady - a Moth StorySlam and GrandSlam winner - offers advice on how best to tell your tale. Call in with your story 212-433-9692!

Watch Jim tell a story at the Moth Ball this year.


Jim O'Grady

Comments [7]

Amy, Good point. I should've been clearer on the difference between a dinner table anecdote about people and events that are familiar to the listeners and a dramatic story you tell to an audience of strangers. Also, I told a story at The Moth last night that did not start in the action but with a description of the main character. So the rules aren't hard and fast.

Dec. 23 2011 02:25 PM
Bob Abate from Yonkers

Every year at this time, I remember Christmas - 1974. It was mid-December, we had just moved from the Bronx to our first house and were watching Johnny Carson one evening. He and his sidekick - Ed McMahon - were jokingly reading a few children's Letters to Santa Claus and mentioned that similar letters were available from most post offices.

The next day, my wife, two year-old daughter and I were driving into the City, so we made a brief stop at the Bronx Central Post Office at 149th Street and the Grand Concourse to pick up a letter. I walked into the superintendent's office, asking for one, and he pointed to a pile on a table saying ..."I haven't had time to sort them yet, just take them, pick out the one you want and bring back the rest." So I did and left.

I asked my wife to read them and pick one out. It was the only time there was total silence in our car. When we parked, I asked her which one she would select and she said that I would have to make that choice. Once I read the letters, I understood why. Virtually not one single child asked Santa anything for themself alone. They asked for their family - a doll for a little sister, a puzzle for an older brother, a sweater for a mother, gloves for a father. And only lastly, if Santa could, maybe a baseball or a scarf for themself.

I was stunned and humbled by their selflessness and consideration for others. I could not choose one so I chose all. Every letter was copied and with the help of a friend of mine - Phil O'Brien, also from the Bronx - a number of businesses and organizations were contacted for whatever contributions or items they could donate to this most worthwhile cause.

We contacted virtually every FDNY firehouse and NYPD precinct in the Bronx where we were able to post the "Letters to Santa" along with our phone number and address. Soon thereafter, firemen and policemen began stopping by my house with "gently-used" toys, games, clothing and other assorted items for the families. My entire dining and living room were soon filled with these gifts, carefully wrapped and tagged for each family member - almost three hundred gifts for seventy-three children.

In the early morning of December 24, 1974, Phil O'Brien and I set out in our cars - brimming with Santa's presents - down to the Yankee Stadium where we were met by two NYPD patrol cars serving as our escorts. We delivered Santa's gifts, beginning in the South Bronx and slowly working our way north throughout the entire borough. We made a couple of dozen stops, knocking on each and every door, as Santa's helper from the Post Office, delivering his gifts to them and their family. It was a richly inspiring and rewarding day filled with a kaleidoscope of emotions.

Every year around this time I think about those children and what their future was like. I still have their Letters and am amazed to realize that they would now be in their forties - older than I was that very distant and yet so ever-present Christmas Eve.

Dec. 23 2011 01:58 AM
Kate from Hudson Valley

My story is about a story. When we were on our honeymoon in 1964 we drove from LONDON to Spain via Paris. I had forgotten my contact lens case so I put my lenses in a glass on the mantlepiece. My husband used the glass to drink and the lenses were gone. This was the hotel St. James and Albany. Fast forward I was reading books of urban myths and there was the elopers or perhaps honeymooners where the guy drank the girls lenses. But this was me!!!! What happened? Well in 1963 my dad had become Richard Nixons law partner. I bought a boat ticket to England got a job, got married, and traveled about. My mom loved this and told the adventures of her children to the Nixons and anyone else who would listen.

Or maybe there was an eloping couple where the husband drank the lenses Who knows??

Dec. 22 2011 12:08 PM
Robert from NYC

That's wrong, my brother is 69 I'm 65. Vanity? Maybe.

Dec. 22 2011 11:58 AM
Robert from NYC

One year my father wasn't around so mom had to put the lights on the tree. When she plugged the lights into the extension cord my brother and I both saw her nose light up red as she stood there holding the plugs together and shook. It didn't occur to us--we were very young--that she could have been electrocuted. She probably was minimally if that's possible. Until this day bot the bother and I, 65 and 69 y/o respectively, swear and KNOW her nose turned red and lit up.

Dec. 22 2011 11:56 AM
Nancy from Brooklyn

"Supposedly" Ellis Island? I wonder how many of us are hestitant to retell family stories involving Ellis Island because we can't document these arrivals in the records Ellis Island has made available online.

Dec. 22 2011 11:53 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The "ninja" story is the 1st one that actually did start w/the action--but I notice that in most of the others, the action is the payoff, so it wouldn't have worked to start with it.

Dec. 22 2011 11:53 AM

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