Making “A Christmas Memory”

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 By Mark D. Crantz
By Mark D. Crantz

If you’re tired of watching the millionth rerun of National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation,” then there is something wrong with you. Don’t feel alone. My wife won’t watch either. So, enjoy my wife’s company this holiday season and remember she likes jewelry.  I will never tire of Clark W. Griswold and Cousin Eddie.  These characters pick up my holiday spirits and have taught me the fine art of stringing outside Christmas lights and the importance of properly disposing of RV sewage. I’ll admit to watching “Christmas Vacation,” about 20 times a year since 1989. That’s 460 times. I’m shooting for 500 times, which is the threshold for automatic fan syndication and guarantees me membership in the ‘Jelly of the Month Club’ for the rest of my life.  Unfortunately, you and my wife’s disloyalty will require eating peanut butter sandwiches without jelly.  Good luck in singing the Star Spangled Banner, the Griswold’s favorite Christmas carol.

Maybe, I’m being too harsh. So, I’ll share my jelly and agree to a change of pace. This year my wife has talked me into seeing the upcoming Laguna Playhouse production of “A Christmas Memory.”  This holiday classic is based on a short story written by Truman Capote in 1956. The largely autobiographical story takes place in the 1930s and tells the story of a 7-year old boy and an elderly cousin, who is his best friend.  The narrative focuses on friendship, the joy of Christmas giving, and gently touches on loneliness and loss. Oh boy, it doesn’t sound anything like “Christmas Vacation.” But then again, it’s better to give than to receive and I sure don’t want to receive any more Grinch looks than necessary from my holiday giving wife.

The play’s theme that it’s better to give than it is to receive is an important life lesson to learn. My Christmas memory is that the Crantz boys were slow learners. One long ago Christmas, when I was 7 and my brother was 5, we decided after much deliberation to spend our allowance on the greatest Christmas present a Mom could ever wish for, an ice crusher. We loved snow cones and up until this great present our Mom used to have to smash ice cubes wrapped in a washcloth with a hammer. Mom told us that she loved our present and couldn’t wait until next year’s present. Our Dad didn’t fare as well.  He gave Mom a vacuum cleaner that she refused to use up until the next Christmas when Dad gave her the pearls that she always wanted. Even the interim cleaning person was relieved and gladly gave notice after dealing with a year of snow cone mishaps.

But my favorite Christmas memory of all time is the one my Mom told us about. It was Mom and Dad’s first holiday together. The kids weren’t there yet.  Dad was Jewish and Mom was Methodist. My Dad’s family didn’t like the inter-religious marriage and made their position abundantly clear by not speaking to Mom. Mom was nervous about her first Christmas.  Dad showed up on Christmas Eve with a Christmas tree.  She said it looked perfect right next to the Menorah she got for my Dad. And for 52 Christmases thereafter, they never topped that first gift to each other. Although, my brother and I believe the ice crusher came close.


Be sure to make some wonderful holiday memories of your own by seeing  “A Christmas Memory,” that runs from Dec. 3-29.  If you don’t go, then be on the lookout for a vacuum cleaner especially picked out for you.


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.

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