Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Staff Contacts | Affiliates | Home RSS

Keep roasting those chestnuts

December 9, 2010
By Andy Heller

FLINT - The best part about family get-togethers is chestnuts.

And by chestnuts I don't mean chestnuts. I wouldn't know a chestnut if you roasted one on an open fire and handed one to me.

I mean chestnuts as in tired, dull, terribly unfunny stories told of the family, by the family, for the family - stories that everyone has heard a hundred times but still think are real gut-busters.

Article Photos

Andy Heller

You're thinking, "But hold on, some of my family stories are hysterical, not dull or tired."

How can I put this politely? You're wrong.

The very definition of a family chestnut is that it bores other people to death. Literally. You remember that scene in "Airplane" where the passenger who sits next to Robert Hays eventually hangs himself?

Hays was telling a chestnut, and chestnuts are like colds. They're best kept to yourself.

Notice I said "to yourself." The other definition of a chestnut is that human beings are incapable of believing that their chestnuts aren't like everybody else's chestnuts. We all think OUR chestnuts are a real hoot, me included.

For instance, large chunks of my family got together for the long Thanksgiving weekend, and, lemme tell ya, before long the chestnuts were a 'roasting. Wanna hear one? Oh, sure you do. I'm positively SURE you'll love this one. It's a real stitch. No, really.

See, my dad, who is no longer with us, God rest his soul, was a bit persnickety, which is not a good trait to have if you have six kids, five of them boys.

Kids tend to walk off with things and not return them, especially us, and so it was with the pair of scissors from the desk in my dad's den.

Whenever he didn't need them, there they would be, in the right-hand drawer, waiting to serve.

But whenever he needed them, poof, they'd be gone, which would be dad's signal to launch into a dressing down - long, loud, sometimes profane and always to an empty room dressing down - of no one in specific and everyone in general, not unlike the one that Ralphie's dad gives the furnace and the Bumpus' dogs in "A

Christmas Story." (Why Darren McGavin didn't win an Oscar for "Best Grumbling," I'll never know.)

Well, one day, the dressing downs stopped. And the reason they stopped?

A bike lock.

Yes, the old man - the Fig, as we called him, since his middle name was Newton went to the store and bought a bike lock attached to a short, little plastic-coated chain.

He then looped the chain through the handle of the scissors and around the handle of the desk, and the scissors never moved again.

It was a classic Fig overreaction, and we loved it, except when we needed to use the scissors and he - and the secret combination to the scissors - wasn't around. Then it was just a pain in the backside.

Well, anyway, isn't that story hysterical? Aren't you glad I shared it?

Tick, tick, tick

Sound of crickets


Oh, like YOUR family stories are so much better.

They are? OK, then let's hear one, smart guy/gal

Wait. On second thought, let's not.


EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at You can e-mail him at



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web