By Mark D. Crantz
The holidays can be a time of mixed feelings. It’s a joyous time of year for retailers and not so much for the rest of us, who are in a frenzy to make each retailer happier than the next. This year my wife’s secret Santa, which she doesn’t keep a secret, is Tiffany. Tiffany will be very happy this year. I’m glad. My wallet is sad.
Christmases of past were more fun because I didn’t do the shopping. Mom did it with the help of Santa. The kids would give Mom their wish lists and Dad would say, “Santa’s just a bad dresser who started this commercial nonsense. He should foot the bill, not me.” To which Mom would counter, “Kids, don’t mind the grumpy old Grinch. Dad’s just mad because Santa has had him on the naughty list since 1929.”
As kids, we believed this story. We tried very hard to keep ourselves on the nice list. None of us wanted to end up like Dad, who was eternally blacklisted by Santa. My brother, Steve tried the hardest to keep to Santa’s good side. Right after Thanksgiving, Steve became all sweet and nice around the house. “I’ll clear the table,” he’d exclaim after dinner. “May I do the dishes, too?” asked Steve. Mom would beam back, “You’re the best boy a Mom could ever ask for.” My other brother, Dan, and I didn’t agree with this assessment, but knew better to say anything on the off chance that our opinion could put us on the blacklist, like Dad. Mom had Santa’s ear and Steve had Mom’s ear. Dan and I had nobody’s ear. Then things got worse. We caught Steve putting us on Santa’s naughty list. “Mark’s reading comic books and not doing his homework. Dan’s teasing the dog,” Steve tattled. “Oh, those naughty boys,” exclaimed Mom. “Your father will deal with them when he gets home tonight,” sighed Mom. “For now Stevie, let’s bake Christmas cookies.”
Dad came home and told Dan and I to shape up or join him on Santa’s naughty list. We held our breath until Christmas morning. Dad recorded the holiday merriment with one of the first motion picture cameras of the early 1960s. It recorded live action on film. There was no sound. Well, there was always the miming of Dad saying, “Has the film run through, yet?” as he looked down the lens section to verify that the film had indeed run through. And over the years, there are many family films showing that the film had not quite run through and instead recorded an up close picture of Dad’s nose that stood for us as, “The End.” The Nose became the Crantz coat of arms and I plan to monogram my shirts and towels as soon as I get a meeting and nod from the Queen.
And what to our wondering eyes did appear on film that year? All the presents under the tree were marked from Santa to Dad. The home movie records our shock and awe that Dad got everything and the sheer wonderment of it all. Steve’s expression records the greatest change from the best boy a Mom could ever ask for. The action plays out that the presents were addressed in care of Dad, but for Steve, Dan and me. The relief and happiness on our faces is very amusing as the home movie runs out with the close up of Dad’s nose and the surprise ending that he had Santa’s ear that year.
Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago. He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.” His recently deceased Border Collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.