Live a Little

The tree is lit and so am I. And, as per Christmas, a new baby is on the way

Friends have been asking, what are you doing for Christmas? I tell them nothing special: By tradition, the kids liquor me up on Christmas Eve, then pull me around the neighborhood in a little red wagon to see the holiday lights.

Me: “Wow, look at THAT house!” 

Smartacus: “Dad, that’s ours.”

Me: “Sooooo beautiful!”

And so are our Christmases. Small. Silly. And beautiful.

Like, when Smartacus bangs the back of the Advent calendar, trying to dislodge the final piece of chocolate.

You should’ve seen him the other day, smacking that calendar. He was three days ahead of where he should’ve been, all the little calendar windows flung fully open on Dec. 20, and there was just the one last stubborn piece, melted slightly in its plastic crib.

He justified eating the last chocolate early by saying he needed the extra energy to drive his sister around shopping, plus all we really have is today – not tomorrow, not next week – “so live a little.”

Smartacus has a point. Live a little.

To be sure, this is a quiet and lonely Christmas, devoid of dance, cocktail parties and townfolk crushed into taverns. So grab a chocolate, grab a friend. Live a little.

Weighing in on all that was my pal Lascelles:

“This Christmas I miss … roaming New York City without a care and racing taxis to McSorley’s and ending the day packed like sardines with tiny mugs of dark brew in both hands,” she said.

“Christmas in the city…I miss smiles, hugs, handshakes and that random kiss I lay on a police officer’s cheek.”

I quizzed Lascelles over whether she actually kissed random cops at Christmas, because I thought I could use that in a screenplay some day, or a short story, provided anyone publishes short stories anymore.

And Lascelles said, yes, “I kiss cops!” a Christmas tradition with her, and one of her many quirks.

Nice quirks, Lascelles.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your lips be light….

Another pal, Janet, who is married to my pal Doug (that sounds immoral somehow but is absolutely true) says that she really relishes watching their Christmas tree late at night after everyone else has gone off to bed.

We could get eight kids on that big toboggan, smashed together giggling.

That’s a nice moment too, gazing at a twinkling Christmas tree in a dark and quiet house. If you do that, please think of Janet and her mom. In fact, say a prayer for the many moms struggling with health issues this holiday.

Here’s a toast to all the lovely mothers who gave us Christmas — past, present and future.

Love you, Moms.

I kind of wish we had a little snow, to tell the truth. I wish we lived in a rambling Vermont inn and Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby showed up making wisecracks and asking: “Any rooms for rent? What about leggy showgirls? By the way, which way’s the bar?”

Favorite “White Christmas” moment: When Kaye and Crosby mistake Dean Jagger for the janitor of the down-on-its-luck old inn. “Worse,” Jagger says. “I own the place.”

Fun “White Christmas” factoid: Director Michael Curtiz also directed “Casablanca.”

Nostalgia grips us at Christmas, all the terrific old movies, all the resonant family traditions…the rants, the booze, the open houses. At our house, Mom trilled; Dad glowed like Santa. Sure, they’d fight a little. No one said Christmas was perfect. Jesus was born in a pile of smelly straw, after all.

We bought “A Christmas Story” the other night, a salute to parents and imperfect Christmases. Nothing repeats so well as Christmas. For me, the holidays are a big old book I read again and again.

Best Christmas ever? Maybe when I was about 10, our wealthy aunt and uncle gave us a really nice toboggan. An expensive vessel, it had about 10 coats of shellac and a thick red pad where your butt went. We could get eight kids on that big toboggan, smashed together giggling.

Sometimes we’d ride it down the snowy hill standing up, fall and crack our heads on the ice, get up dazed and confused.

“Wheeeew…cool. Let’s do that again.”

Best Christmas ever? Maybe the first one with Posh and the lovely and patient older daughter, just six months old. You couldn’t walk for all the presents.

Posh was the kind of woman who could always find a cab on a snowy night. She loved Christmas back then, it was simpler, and we lived in a 100-year-old house where the pipes would freeze. I remember one Christmas where we did the dishes in the bathtub, the only running water we had. So cool. Wish we could do that again.

Best Christmas ever? This one, why not? The kids are all here. The tree is lit and so am I. Well, pretty soon, anyway. In a few hours, I’ll be playing “Jingle Bells” with a martini shaker.

Speaking of quirky people, Rapunzel moved home for the week, since her boyfriend is out of town. I hugged her the other morning, told her how good it was to have her around again. Without looking up from her phone, she said “Thanks.”

Tender moments like that make parenting totally worthwhile.

At a young age, Rapunzel has mastered the holidays. This year, she has conned her little brother into chauffeuring her around LA to shop. He waits at the curb, car idling, her getaway driver in a diamond heist. If time allows, she has threatened to organize our spice drawer. Never again will I be able to locate the oregano.

Joining us soon will be that new pup — Penny Laine, the little golden retriever with the bedroom eyes. Can’t wait to see what she does with all the wrapping paper, or whether White Fang will treat her like a baby sister or an hors d’oeuvre.

Like Christmas itself, pet wolves come pre-loaded with serendipity — my favorite word. God bless the beasts. If you have a dog, you have everything.

Joining us in the next year will be a new baby. Proud to announce that the lovely and patient older daughter will become a mom in May, the same month her mother and I were married.

Obviously, I’m too young and supple to be a grandpa. I’m barely legal. By gawd, I just got out of high school in 1974.

Ready or not, a grandpa I will be, the kind who shimmies on his belly to play Candyland on the floor, the kind who reads big old Christmas classics over and over again.

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…”

Yep, my baby’s having a baby.

Hey Posh, you hear that?

Merry Christmas to all. If you miss the sound of holiday music in a beautiful church, please click on the link below at 7 pm tonight (Dec. 23) and Christmas Day. I narrate a small portion of an amazing program featuring a full orchestra and choir, taped last year, and conducted by Jack Lantz. To watch, click at the following link at the appropriate time:

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on

19 thoughts on “Live a Little

  1. Congratulations to you and your daughter and son in law! I predict next Christmas with your new grandchild (and hopefully no mask on either of you) will be your BEST one yet! Merry Christmas and much joy to you and your wonderful brood. I’ll toast to that!

  2. Congratulations, Chris! The word Grandpa sounds really weird until you hold the baby. Then it all feels so right. Enjoy your holidays and that new puppy coming to visit. Stay Well and Merry Christmas!

  3. Congratulations to you and your lovely and patient older daughter and Finn. The baby will have the most fun and interesting grandfather. You can tell it all of your stories and never run out of words. I wish all of the a ERSKINE clan a very healthy, safe, and joyful 2021.🤗🥰🐶🍪

  4. Congrats, Chris! You’ll earn Grandpa of the Year honors if they have an award for that.
    By the way, I produced the bonus features for the “White Christmas DVD” many moons ago. I conned Paramount to send me to Rosemary Clooney’s Kentucky home, where they turned her home into a museum. I interviewed Nick Clooney and it was Christmas time, so the whole town (population 50?) welcomed me like a visiting celebrity– felt like I was in “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
    Christmas memory: having done all my shopping, I needed to feel the spirit, so I’d walk alone through the Glendale Galleria, just watching the crazy crowds.

    A G&T toast to wonderful Christmas memories. Best to you and yours!

  5. Congratulations Jessica – and to you, too, Chris and your whole family. There’s is nothing in the world that can compare to being a ‘Grandy’, absolutely nothing. Enjoy every second. I do!

  6. So, a new baby? Well, as my people say, Mazel Tov! By the way, favorite Christmas movies: White Christmas and The Bishop’s Wife (the original with Cary Grant, David Niven Loretta Young and Monty Wooley).

  7. Congratulations Grandpa.Your wonderful life thus far has just taken a quantum leap upward with the baby’s announcement. The best is yet to come Chris. Merry Christmas.

  8. Precious!! Boy or girl, you know you will be seeing flickers of Posh every time you lay eyes on the child! Congrats, Grandpa, from a Great-Grandma!

  9. Congratulations to you, your lovely and patient older daughter and Finn! New life. New beginnings. A wonderful journey. What great news to ring in the new year. I raise my glass! (I mean I will later. If I day drink now, my last minute Christmas antics will cause a hullabaloo.) I hope you got a chance to see the Christmas Star. So cool. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family. Looking forward to 2021. I say peace out 2020 and don’t let the door hit ya on the way out!

  10. Chris
    I was just going to wish you a merry Christmas 🎄🎁 and thanks for resurrecting the memories. And then you drop the baby news! Beyond Wonderful ‼️‼️ Being a grandparent is the best , even without Posh. CONGRATULATIONS, my friend, & here’s to more memories, beautiful music, laughter, & love ♥️


  11. Congratulations to all of you on the big news! Including Uncle Smartacus. Chris, I look forward to reading many wonderful posts on your grandchild and you. A new generation to make this world a better place.

  12. The best news of all, a new baby!!! You will be a blithering idiot when you see your grand baby for the first time and EVERY TIME you are in his/her precious presence.God bless you and your entire family! Merry Christmas and A Blessed New Year!!! P.S. I love the accolades to all our Moms and how they were the ones to shape our memories of ‘Christmas past’. As I watch my dearest Mother fade, I keep reminding her of all the wonderful family memories she made for us. Your Posh will be there making memories through the beautiful family you both created, and through your baby’s baby. Blessings!

  13. …As clear yet melting as a winter moon flooding new snow, the steam of our breath vanishing in wonder at the power of light to soften glitter and resolve the little sharp edges of time …

    Merry Christmas, grandpere to be…
    and thanks for the gift of your prose, it’s exultation of the intimate and extra ordinary, it’s warmth and humanity,;
    And most of all, the gift of yourself through your writing, the depth of sharing a ribbon twining around and through the words, wrapping your offerings to us in dark fire. Ending a year of loss, isolate and masked, seasonably cold and alone, we need its blaze of zest, libation, nostalgia,and laughter more than ever.

  14. Chris and family, I am thrilled for all of you that there is a baby on the way! There is nothing like grandparent-hood, and to be an aunt or an uncle is equally exciting: all the fun and very little responsibility unless you are babysitting alone. Congratulations will be more in order come May. Until then, just sit back, relax, and start shopping for things you are certain the new parents cannot live without.
    Hugs to all with best wishes for a merry and a happy and vaccines for all.

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