When I was in second grade I won the Christmas poster contest at our school .
My poster was printed in the local paper with an accompanying story and a copy was put on display in the front windows of several local businesses . I had my picture taken with my teacher , Sister Carmel Mary and , I think , the newspaper editor , or maybe he was the honorary major for that year . I stood for the photo next to Sister Carmel Mary in her long black habit . I don’t have the photo in front of me now , so I can’t remember if I wore the school uniform , a salt-and-pepper pull-over shirt and corduroy pants , or if I had on a sport coat and a little tie . I remember the expression on my face , though . The photo was published next to the copy of the poster and anyone and everyone who walked down any street in town could see it .
The poster I still have a copy of somewhere in my garage . My mother had saved it for me and gave it to me several years ago . It pictured a large Christmas tree , with decorations , and presents underneath . It was colorful. A prominent caption read : CHRISTMAS IS FOR GIVING AND WE’RE GIVING A CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL . The artwork was good , but I suspect that it was the clever caption that won me the prize .
The school was about to hold a Christmas festival and every student was required to turn in a poster to promote the event . Out of the hundreds of students who turned in their posters , mine won !
There was a little problem , however . I was procrastinating and procrastinating as the deadline got closer and closer for the poster to be due . I wasn’t artistic and not too swift on any creativity bent either . My older sister Pat , however , was artistic and was creative , and evidently had sympathy for my approaching doom , so she made me a poster . She drew the poster . It had my name on it . It won the school-wide poster contest , but it wasn’t mine .
I didn’t tell my teacher that the poster wasn’t my creation . I didn’t tell my teacher anything in those days . I hardly spoke a word , truth be told , until I was a thirteen or fourteen . I was a bit shy in my early years ( in the same sense that Jeffrey Dalmer , for example , was a little off , or that Elon Musk has a little money ) . Had I spilled the beans right off the bat , my life might have been easier , at least in the long run , after some embarrassment , but I wasn’t going to be able to do that . As it was , I had to swallow the true humiliation of being honored for something that someone else had done and to just play along to the end . I didn’t see any other way out .
I think my sister was a tad irritated by the whole thing , too , by the way . After all , she had made the winning poster but had recieved no recognition for it . It was her poster but it was my picture in all the shop windows around town . And those newspapers remained there for some time , too . It was humiliating . I was trapped in a lie , so to speak , with no easy way out . This wasn’t supposed to happen to a quiet little Catholic school student who just tried to get through his days without bringing down the wrath of God upon himself .
I can visualize my expression in that infamous newspaper photo . I can still feel , somehow , the intense burning humiliation of the moment . The nun next to me , my teacher , was so proud of little Danny , I imagine , her student . Little did she know ! Little did the news photographer or that man in the photo know ! Little did all of those unsuspecting people who saw the newspaper photo know !
I was pretty sure at the time that my guardian angel knew the truth . If the guardian angel wouldn’t tell God , I figured , then I might be alright . God was , hopefully , too busy with other stuff . Ah , but then there was my sister , Pat !
Luckily , I survived winning the poster contest when I was in second grade . What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger . I’ve heard that .