O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum - Billy Corriher

Every year, the centerpiece of my family's Christmas celebration is a small plastic tree with white lights. It's not really big enough to be considered a tree, so I guess it's more of a bush.

But the memories associated with our Christmas bush more than make up for its size.

Every year when we break out the traditional Christmas shrubbery, I am filled with warm, flaky memories of my old college suitemate, Newman.

Newman was the kind of guy you absolutely dread living beside. And, of course, moving in my first day of college, there he stood waiting in the hall? the troll that would plague my first semester at the University of North Carolina.

He was the kind of guy who never, ever stopped talking. He would stand in my room, going on and on about absolutely nothing for what seemed like days. It didn't really matter what Newman was saying, I think he just kind of made it up as he went along.

While he stood there making me wish I was deaf, he had a habit of scratching his severely dry skin, which would leave a little trail of flakes whenever he finally left.

I'm normally a pretty tolerant guy. I could deal with the talking (my roommate and I invested in some earplugs) and the flakes we had a dust-buster for, but the last straw with Newman came when he interrupted a very sacred observance at UNC, college basketball.

Anyone who's ever lived in North Carolina can testify to the importance of college basketball. And on this particular occasion, the Tar Heels were getting waxed by a conference opponent. Some friends and I were watching the game when Newman walked by the door.

Newman proceeded to walk in. He started going on and on, coaching the team from the edge of my roommate's bed and sucking whatever joy was left out of the room.

Newman's incoherent comments, and the fact that my team was losing worse than I ever thought possible, was too much for me to bear.

"That's it, Newman," I said. "You're outta here."

I then proceeded to usher the little gnome out of my room and watch the game without his babbling in the background. The only problem was that my television cable ran through Newman's room.

So, when he was banned from the basketball game, he disconnected my cable until I let him back in. Forced to decide between not seeing the game and watching it with a gremlin, I let Newman back in.

But, a few weeks later, my first semester ended and I moved to another room.

Going in Newman's room to say goodbye to his roommate, I noticed something Newman had left behind when he left for exams.

I had heard Newman go on during one of his rants about one of his family's holiday traditions – a tiny Christmas tree that had been in his house at Christmas since he was a child.

I'm not sure if Newman was telling the truth about the significance of the Christmas shrubbery, but he didn't think to take it home over the holiday break.

And I figured since I probably (hopefully) would never see Newman again, I might be nice to have a little something to remember him by on this special time of year.

Billy Corriher covers government and politics for the News Daily and can be reached at bcorriher@news-daily.com or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 281.