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Local holiday stories: From lawn mowers to slaps to grandmother

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Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2005 10:00 pm

Carol Willmett and some foster children in the mid-1980s were dying in anticipation of an absolutely huge box next to the Christmas tree Willmett shared with her husband, Reuven Epstein.

What could be in such an enormous box, everyone wondered? Everyone guessed what it was.

"I even started to get excited," Willmett said.

The excitement disappeared in a hurry once she opened the box.

It was a lawnmower.

Willmett doesn't do lawns.

"On the rare occasion it gets mowed, it's usually him," she said.

While Christmas is generally a time a joy and, for some, to observe the birth of Jesus Christ, the holiday can provoke some humor as well. For the record, Willmett was not amused about getting a lawn mower for Christmas.

But Laura Brown didn't mind her mother giving her a lump of coal when she was 10 years old.

Laura Brown

"I thought it was pretty funny," said Brown, now 20, who grew up in Lodi and now attends college in Washington state.

Lillian Wick, a Lodi resident and retired business teacher at Galt High School, said she would have received coal when she was a child in New York City, but her parents employed an eastern European custom - putting a potato in her shoe.

It happened every year, but it wasn't on Christmas. Instead, it was on Dec. 6, St. Nicholas' Day.

Lillian Wick

Santa Claus was nice to Laurie Bambas by refraining from giving her coal several years ago. Bambas, a Galt High outreach consultant who lives in Lodi, was 11 years old when she sneaked out of her bedroom with two younger nieces in the wee hours of Christmas morning to check out the tree.

There were four bicycles next to the tree.

"I touched one bike, then boom, boom, boom, boom," Bambas said.

Laurie Bambas

All four of them fell to the floor like dominoes. She and her nieces crawled back to bed, but miraculously the bicycles were upright when they got up later in the morning.

That wasn't the first time Bambas caused a stir at Christmas. When she was 3, she and her mother were at midnight Mass at Lodi's St. Anne's Catholic Church when they approached the altar to receive Communion.

Little Laurie saw the Nativity scene on the altar and exclaimed for all to hear, "Isn't baby cheese-it cute?"

Bambas hasn't heard the end of it.

Skye Tweedy

Sometimes, holiday craziness can extend to the kitchen. Lodi resident Skye Tweedy reports one time her brother and grandma were arguing when he accidentally slapped his grandmother in the face with a chicken or turkey leg. That ended the argument in a hurry.

At least it was better than getting a lawn mower for Christmas.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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