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Way down under a lot of wrapping, the core of Christmas is still there


If you are full of kringle and nog, I don’t want to bring my wet blanket into it very far, even though it’s tempting.

The Christmas season once lasted a week or two. Then a month. Now it’s two months.

(And if you watch home shopping channels, it’s six months.)

Christmas music in November is wrong. I can avoid it in my home. I can’t avoid it in stores.

Everyone in America does not celebrate Christmas.

Everyone in America who celebrates Christmas does not celebrate it in the same way.

Moneymakers aren’t interested in the illusion of rationality.

However, I was delighted to hear that Black Friday is losing its mojo.

I am happy for the employees, mostly, who have had to work at odd hours just to serve ravenous appetites for deep discounts on must-have electronics and peeing dolls.

Beneath my gruff exterior is a gruff interior. Beneath my gruff interior is a soft spot for memories, and a wistfulness about some things that have been diminished through the manipulations of others — to an extreme.

I am old enough to know that’s how we do things around here.

Some weddings, for example.

The national average for a wedding day in 2016 was $35,329, according to Fortune magazine.

The typical cost to have a justice of the peace marry you is $50 to $100.

I may have told this story before. Aging leads to redundancy. But it’s the best Christmas memory I have.

We drove Santa Claus home in a Buick.

My father sold Buicks in Uniontown, Penn., in the early 1950s.

There was a Christmas parade. I wish I had photographs. I am sure it was simple and sweet and half-Frank Capra and half-Diane Arbus.

I rode up front in a convertible, next to my father, and Santa was in the back seat. He waved at everyone, and threw candies. He hit one kid in the forehead.

When the time came, Santa said, “Please take me home.”

My father said, “OK, Ed, uh, Santa.”

Santa lived a couple of blocks from us.

I wish I had kept a journal. This would have been my entry that night.

“I had the time of my life tonight. There I was, in a Buick Skylark with Santa. He looked like he had lost some weight. Maybe the holiday stress. He smelled a little funny, too. I can’t put my finger on it, but it might have been Maker’s Mark.”

Much later in life, when I was re-evaluating Natalie Wood’s life and death — among other things — I drank my way through Decembers.

The month had turned into an inexplicable monster, no longer enjoyable. I drowned out the sounds of it.

Wood (born Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenka) was 8 when she co-starred in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Precocious and a Christmas curmudgeon, until, well, watch it for yourself.

Wood was 31 when she made “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” a very different kind of film than “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Twelve years later, Wood died, and the cause is still in question. Her life went from Santa’s knee to a Catalina Island boat trip, and in between the waters were choppy, like they are for most of us.

Do you want to know a secret? Every December, I watch one of those two films.


Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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