Holiday Digest: No Christmas

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By Dennis Lockwood 

I’m sitting on a bench at Main Beach on a typical SoCal day. The sun is warm, but the wind is blowing in a cool, ocean breeze along with a pounding surf. It makes for a confusing wardrobe day as witnessed by the jogger in shorts and a t-shirt, in comparison to the senior citizen bundled up in her overcoat and scarf. One thing for certain the walked dogs on the promenade could care less.

I’m hoping for some inspiration to write a Christmas story. Maybe a little ditty full of humor and satire that makes people laugh and forget their cares for a while. Or should it be the literary, thoughtful essay probing the gap between the haves and have-nots?

Decisions, decisions, what’s a person to do? I pull out my pen to get started when a man walks up to me and asks, “Mind if I sit down?”

“No, please do,” though I’m a little hesitant because there are several open benches nearby. Now, he seems like a normal guy, a tall man clean shaven and well dressed as confirmed by the Ferragamo shoes he’s wearing. I’d say he is in his early 60s, but his physique says I’ve worked out a lot.  

The first moments feel a little awkward as I wonder if I should say something. Several minutes go by, and I’m thinking about leaving when he turns toward me and points at the houses up on the ridge.

“I used to live up there. I loved this town. It was my home.”

“Oh really? I love Laguna Beach too.” Not knowing what else to say.

“Do they still have that big Christmas party downtown every year where they light the tree?”

“Yes, they do. It’s quite a night. The kids love it.”

“My wife and I always loved going. We never missed it, but that was a long time ago. I imagine things have changed a lot since then.”

“Well, some things have. Quite a few businesses have come and gone in the last 10 years and the parking just keeps getting worse. I’m told only about a quarter of the people in town live here year-round. But you couldn’t tell by the traffic.”

“Are you writing about something? I see your notepad and pen.”

“Trying to. I’m supposed to write a piece about Christmas, but I haven’t come up with anything yet.” He looks at me hard, like I’ve struck a nerve with him.

“You should try writing about what it would be like if there were no Christmas.”

“You mean like if it never existed?”

“No, more like if it was taken away from you. Like you weren’t allowed to celebrate it anymore.”

“Oh, you mean like losing your freedom.”

“Yes, exactly. Just think how that would feel. You know, one of the reasons for the celebration, besides the obvious religious beliefs, was to cheer people up during the cold, dark winter months when they got easily depressed. People would find a whole new appreciation for the holiday if it were taken away from them.”

“Yeah, I guess the color of coffee cups and the “Happy Holidays” PC crap wouldn’t mean much if Christmas didn’t exist.”

We both stare out at the ocean, thinking about a world where there is no Christmas, until I glance over at him and notice a swell of emotion as his eyes begin to tear up. We both quickly turn away looking back toward the ocean.

“You can’t imagine how depressing it is when there’s no Christmas. Memories just seem to haunt you.”

“You sound like you’ve experienced this.”

“Yes, I have, for the last 15 years, ever since I left here.”

“Where have you been? Out of the country?”

“No, northern California.”

“I don’t understand. Where exactly where were you?”

“San Quentin.”

Dennis Lockwood is a published author who writes short stories and music. His crime novel “Duality” is a Writer’s Digest award winner. He lives in North Laguna with his wife, Pat.

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