Stories of Christmas 2015

ChristmasStoriesA StubbornThings SymposiumDecember 2015
Latest: Throwing a Fit for the Holidays by Kung Fu Zu  •  Last year’s winning entry (or phrase) was Rosalys’ “…a real, genuine fake tree.” The most heart-warming (in a Little Rita Faye sort of way) was Pat’s story of his wife finding the long-lost song, “I Fell Out of a Christmas Tree.” Some think it should have stayed lost, but that’s another story itself.

We have the highest of literary standards here at StubbornThings. But akin to Rush’s “Open Line Friday,” we relax the standards for these Christmas stories and invite one and all to tell their funny, embarrassing, warm, or poignant stories whether about Christmas Past or stories involving preparing for the current one. (And if you can do Christmas Future, you’re really plugged into the Spirit.)

Submit it here and, if it passes minimum muster (that is, if it isn’t praising B. Hussein Obama for his climate conference or something silly like that), it will be added to this collection, chain-letter style. Hanukkah stories are more than welcome as well from our Jewish brothers and sisters. But no Kwanzaa, please. We don’t do fake holidays.

The Editor

Christmas Stories



A Little Rascal in the Making

This next story doesn’t touch on the Christmas Spirit as much as it does on the criminal one. Thankfully the statue of limitations is long past.

Once in a while here on the Left Coast we get a good snow…or used to. I guess it’s global warming or something because we don’t get the kind of snow we used to get as a kid.

But I remember one Christmas as a child when we received a White Christmas from above. I think I was about 14 years old. The snow had been falling and accumulating for several days. And boys being boys, we found a myriad of ways to have some fun in it.

What are some of the favorite things? Well there’s: sledding, making snowmen (with real genitalia), snow angels, making yellow snow, avoiding yellow snow, snowball fights, making snow cones, catching snow flakes on your tongue, and, of course, throwing snowballs at passing cars.

It was this last yuletide activity that almost got us into a little trouble. There was this road near our house that was fairly steep, but a major thoroughfare so it was busy, snow or no snow. This road has a deceptively gently, but problematic, slope and thus lured cars to their tractional doom. So one of the activities was watching these helpless cards spin their tires as people tried to get up a road they had no business attempting. I can still here the angelic chords of spinning rubber.

Anyway, it was torture enough for the drivers just trying to make it up the hill. And given that this was a busy street, there was no way for two kids (I had a cohort) to help stuck drivers. It would be too dangerous even if we held a helpful, Christian-like thought in our heads, which we didn’t.

But for the drivers going down this hill, we were helpful in other ways. To help speed them along we crept to the edge of the road behind a stand of tall fir trees and pelted them with snowballs. It was all fair play. No rocks in the snowballs. No ice balls. Just soft-packed, new-fallen snow. We had our ethical standards, after all.

Well, we were having great fun doing this for some time. Then I heard my friend say something just before he started to run like a bat out of hell for the woods that were about forty yards away. We were throwing these snowballs from behind a thin stand of trees but behind us was an open field. One of the cars we had both pelted while it was going down the hill had come up the hill and turned into the field behind us. I hadn’t noticed this but my friend had.

As they say, you don’t have to run faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than the next guy. And even though my friend got a head start, I soon passed him. We darted into the woods where knowledge of the trails and the overall darkness surely made it difficult for anyone to follow us. We ran in a child-like terror not knowing just what this driver-of-retribution had in store for us. That is, we were scared witless.

I don’t know if the driver (and passengers, if there were any) got out of the car and tried to follow us. But we bolted to my house and hid in the back of the outdoor workshop, huddling and hearing our pursuers in every small branch that rubbed against the shop. After about 10 minutes, we figured the coast was clear and bolted for my friend’s house across the street.

I wish I could say on that very night, tucked in my bed, that the Ghost of Christmas Snowstorm had visited me and set me right. But no Ghost did unless that Spirit was enunciated in those times, as an adult, my own car had been pelted by a snowball or two. And there was no getting mad at or even with the kids when that happened. What snows around comes around.



Santa Never Forgets

In 1943 a cute 4-year-old girl sat on the lap of Santa Claus at the May Company store in Los Angeles, California. She chatted with Santa, told him her Christmas wishes, hugged and kissed him and went on her way. The little girl and her family eventually moved to Alaska, and so did that particular Santa.

The Santa in question was a man known as Dutch Bandy. Dutch was a man with visual and auditory eidetic imagery, that is, he never forgot a face and remembered everything he heard. He loved to play the part of a clown, and he especially adored dressing up and playing Santa Claus.

In 1963 Caribou’s was the largest store in Anchorage and was famous for having the first escalator in Alaska. That year my husband, Bear, was working as a photographer and his company had him taking photos of the kids with Santa at the Caribou Department Store. Dutch Bandy worked as one of the Santas, so they got to know each other and Dutch told Bear a little about his life. He said he worked as a conductor on the Alaska Railroad and hired out as Santa on his days off.

Dutch Bandy in an antique sleigh with children

Dutch Bandy in an antique sleigh with children

One afternoon a young mother brought her little daughter, who was around 4-years-old, to see Santa. As the mother lifted her daughter onto Santa’s lap Santa said to the mother, “In 1943 I held you on my lap at the May Company Store in Los Angeles. Your little girl looks just like you.” The mother was flabbergasted because she had lived in Los Angeles and knew that she had seen Santa Claus at the May Company. Bear was a little flabbergasted, too.

Another Christmastime Dutch Bandy had been conductor on the 12-hour railroad run from Anchorage to Fairbanks where The Foodland Store had set up Santa Claus in their entryway. Dutch was on lay-over for at least another day so heNorthPoleAlaska went to play Santa at that Foodland. He heard all the requests, hugged all the kids and had a great time.

A day or two later Dutch was the train conductor from Fairbanks back to Anchorage and punched the ticket for one of the children, a girl of 4 or 5, he had played Santa for in Fairbanks. He chatted with her and her mother during the trip and helped them with their baggage when they got off in Anchorage.

A few evenings later he was again playing Santa when the same girl came to the Anchorage Foodland and told her mom she wanted to see Santa again. When the girl was settled on his lap Dutch asked if she thought he had forgotten her wishes and wanted to remind him. Her eyes got big and she nodded. Dutch proceeded to correctly restate her every wish and assure her he wouldn’t forget.

Too soon we forget Santa Claus and other thrills of childhood. All of our little children should have the joy of meeting a Dutch Bandy Santa Claus, and do you suppose that those mothers had a bit more faith in the power of the old gentleman?

Update: We Have Found two of Bear’s Dutch Bandy Photos! One is posted, along with a photo of the Welcome to Santa Claus House Sign At North Pole, Alaska.
Enjoy the season, and A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

— Anniel is a frequent contributor to StubbornThings and secretly is in the Elf Club.



Throwing a Fit for the Holidays

As a boy, I found the anticipation of receiving Christmas presents to be as thrilling as receiving the actual gifts. I wanted to be surprised on Christmas morning, whatever the present might be. My parents knew this and did their best to cater to my whims. In a family of seven, this could not have been easy.

One December, I must have been around eleven, I gave my parents the mandatory gift wish list. It contained a number of “big ticket” items such as a bicycle and weight set. Such presents were bought well before the big day and had to be stashed away from prying eyes. Being fairly large, they could not all be simply stowed in my parents’ bedroom. Figuring out where to hide the presents for five inquisitive children could be troublesome.

As Christmas drew nearer, the daydreams about what might lay beneath the tree began to spin around my head like a roulette wheel. Where would the little white ball land? I savored the imagining of each and every combination of gifts, which might rest beneath the tree, waiting to be despoiled by my greedy fingers.

In our house, we placed some presents under the tree a few days before Christmas. But the big presents from Santa’s surrogates were only brought out after we had gone to bed on Christmas Eve.

One busy afternoon, my mother or father asked me to fetch something from the large storeroom in our garage. Off I trotted to get whatever it was they wanted. I opened the storeroom door and there stood the present I had requested for Christmas. It was in a large box, waiting to be assembled.

A huge disappointment welled up in me and I started to cry. I ran back to my parents complaining that they had ruined my Christmas. Immediately, my mother knew what had happened and tried to sooth me. She apologized for forgetting the present was in the closet. This did not console me very much and I continued whining for some time.

After some minutes, my father told me to stop complaining and be happy I was getting what I wanted. He also made clear that if I didn’t “put a sock in it” they could take the present back to the store and I would actually have something to cry about.

As I stood there sniffling, that computer called my brain took in the available information, collated it and calculated my options. Out popped a mental punch card which indicated my best course was to shut up and withdraw discretely. Being a precocious child, I followed this advice.

Come Christmas day, my bicycle stood next to the tree and did not look any worse for my having known it would be there. And, in truth, I was very lucky and happy to have it.

I wish all of you at StubbornThings a few unspoilt surprises and a very Merry Christmas.

Kung Fu Zu is a conservative prognosticator who has traveled widely (by sleigh) and lived outside the United States. • (1754 views)

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26 Responses to Stories of Christmas 2015

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t think I ever heard of snow angels until I started reading <i.Foxtrot. But I do recall occasional snowball fights, and at least once building a very basic snowman (this was in Alexandria, VA during the 1960-1 winter). I don’t recall ever throwing snowballs at cars. (That Alexandria winter was also the one in which I noticed on Today that a large snowstorm had reached as far south as northern Georgia, which impressed me mightily. I now know that such storms aren’t as rare as I thought, as witness the Great Snowball Fight in the Army of Tennessee camps in Dalton during the winter of 1863-4. It was during the following spring that someone — my sister, I think — saw a couple of boys running across the large meadow behind our block of houses during a storm, and we saw them get hit by lightning. One died.)

  2. Rosalys says:

    WOW! I WON! YAY! Is there a prize? 🙂

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I re-submit my previous piece, which took place during December of 1973. It was one of the most pleasant Christmas seasons I ever had.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    Very interesting (and charming) story by Anniel. Perhaps Archie Goodwin would have made an ideal Santa. (Nero Wolfe once played the role at a party, but both probably were too busy ever to be a department store Santa.)

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Didn’t Archie play a Santa in one of the Nero Wolfe episodes where Timothy Hutton played Archie and Maurie Chaykin played Wolfe? I loved that series. After seeing it, I went out and read every Nero Wolfe book, starting with “Fer de Lance”.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


    Sounds like Dutch Bandy was a very nice man. When one encounters such a person, how can one not be amazed at the wonders in the world? The materialists of the world would take this from us all.

    • Anniel says:

      Bear went to work for the Railroad after meeting Dutch Bandy at the Santa gig. Dutch was a very kind and good man. In those days there were two trains, one going to Fairbanks from Anchorage and one coming down. The met at a siding to pass each other. The conductors would have to get out with the switch men and check that all the switches were set right. That was fine in the summer, except for the Alaska size mosquitos, but the winters were terrible. My Bear had a black cashmere overcoat he’d had tailored in Samsun, Turkey. It was warm, but it was so heavy it weighed him down, so he wound up giving it to Dutch. He wore it outside and on the train if the heaters were not putting out enough heat, which frequently happened.

      We had one older friend who went into labor on the train to Fairbanks and birthed her 20 lb. baby in the coach section. True story, and Minnie was not a very big woman. She was headed for the hospital in Fairbanks because the baby was way overdue and the docs decided she needed a c-section.

      The Railroad used to have a children’s party every Christmas and brought Santa in on an engine. One year our youngest boy was in the midst of toilet training and was standing with his siblings waiting for Santa’s train. We suddenly heard his loud voice shouting, “Here’s the potty train now!” His siblings all ran to hide they were so embarrassed and David was the only one who got to talk with Santa that year.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I’ve heard some interesting stories about those Alaska-sized mosquitos. One involves a mosquito landing on the tarmac at the AFB at Fairbanks — and they went out to fuel it up like any other jet plane. The other involves someone overhearing a couple of mosquitos discussing him: “Should we bite him here or take him home for later?” “Let’s do it here. If we take him home, the big ones will just take him away from us.”

        • Anniel says:

          In the middle of winter it’s easy to forget how awful the mosquitos can be. But in the middle of summer it’s hard to remember the snows of winter. We’re definitely a peculiar race and have to be reminded often about the ups and downs of life. Mosquito magnets have changed Alaska for the better, even though mosquitos are the main pollinators for us. Bees don’t winter over well.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Santa is the wholesaler. I sure hope that girl’s mother kept up her side on the retail end of things.

    That reminds me. Last year I tried to watch a movie called “Bad Santa.” I had heard it was funny. I turned it off after less than ten minutes. That movie is the sign of the rot that has entered our culture. If you think it’s good, you need to shake the muck off.

    The best Santa in all of film that comes to mind is the one played by Edmund Gwenn in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Of course, he was the *real* Santa, so he had a leg up.

    I was scared witless of Santa was I was young. But despite having parents who insisted on terrorizing me all for the sake of getting a picture taken on his lap, I never held a grudge against St. Nick. In fact, I doubt it was him that I was afraid of. I’ve always gotten along well with Santa. I used to leave him cookies and milk.

    And to this day I will defend Santa, both from the whacky “Winter Festival” types who are offended by his presence and the asses-puckered-too-tightly Christians who think belief in Santa Claus trivializes belief in God. I have no patience for either.

    In the case of the former, these are just the kind of sad, nasty people most in need of Santa’s all-embracing generosity and love. And for the latter types, they need to realize that Santa is real. Oh, maybe the guy in the red suit is or is not the “real” one. But if there is not a Spirit of Christmas that includes giving, and if that spirit must remain detached and never personified, then you can take your Christian fundamentalism and stick it between your nutmeg.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      TCM just had that movie, and I might have watched if I’d realized in time that it was the original and not the remake. But I would have had to interrupt it for lunch anyway. I enjoy it from the beginning, when Kris Kringle is explaining the minor errors in a store window’s model of Santa, sleight, and reindeer — but then admits that probably no one else would notice the minor errors.

      I have a photo (my sister brought all the old family photos she had at my mother’s funeral several years ago) of the 3 children together on Santa’s life. This seems to date to 1952, when I was a year old, and would thus be the oldest extant photo of me. I have no memory of the event, of course.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The small details and dialogue of Miracle on 34th Street are superb. Great actors and characters across the board, including the low-key, but appreciative, doctor played by James Seay.

        There’s so much to like about this movie. It tells a story. It has interesting characters. There is a moral involved. Nothing goes strictly to type. Little Susan Walker is not just an adorable little girl. She’s been breast-fed her mother’s cynicism. The movie has charm, grace, and more than a few laughs. And Maureen O’Hara, along with John Payne (who apparently was an accomplished singer as well…I’ll have to check out a couple of his films), anchor the film.

        A little schmaltz? Yes. Surely. But what’s wrong with that? We’ve forgotten the price we’ve paid for the false “realism” of films where real is only that which if violent, vulgar, or highly sexualized. The entire palate that today’s film-makers draw from has been narrowed. That’s one reason many of them couldn’t tell an interesting story if their lives depended upon it. But the special effects will be first rate.

        I think I have a photo with me on Santa’s lap around here somewhere. I’ll see if I can find it.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That’s a (and I’m going to use a gay word here) “darling” photo of Santa and the sleigh full of children. I think the kid on the lap is looking toward a parent for reassurance but the others are just waiting for him to hitch up the reindeer and get that thing going.

  8. Anniel says:

    Christmas is almost here! Can you believe it?

    At our house Bear found two photos he took of Dutch Bandy playing Santa at Caribous in 1963, and a photo he took of the “Welcome to Santa Claus House” sign at North Pole, Alaska. Brad has kindly added one of the photos of Dutch with children in an antique sleigh and the North Pole sign to my article. Enjoy, and have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS. Remember the reason for the season.

    Thanks to Brad for another year of Stubborn Things.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That’s a (and I’m going to use a gay word here) “darling” photo of Santa and the sleigh full of children. I think the kid on the lap is looking toward a parent for reassurance but the others are just waiting for him to hitch up the reindeer and get that thing going.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    As Christmas drew nearer, the daydreams about what might lay beneath the tree began to spin around my head like a roulette wheel.

    Very nice imagery, Mr. Kung. You should meet my older brother. He would go a little nutso at Christmas in anticipation of presents — or just because of the overall excitement. Double roulette wheel with a craps table thrown in.

    A cute story. The presents themselves, although many of them are quite nice, are often secondary to the anticipation. I swear, the subversion of Christmas to a mere exchange of gifts has most likely been one of the contributing factors to our culture that values little but the novel. I can remember Christmas after Christmas getting all kinds of wonderful stuff, playing with it for a few days, and then it would be relegated to the back of the toy shelves, assuming a few items hadn’t quickly broken and found an even more ignominious ending in the trash bin.

    You read about Little House on the Prairie types of stories where getting a few pieces of candy in the stocking was the light of a child’s eye on Christmas morning and that puts into some perspective the Power Rangers, Barbie dolls, and all the other commercial crap we (or a sister, in case of the Barbies) thought we needed to have or we would die.

    Of course, I would designate a bicycle as a “must have” gift and certainly one that a young boy will appreciate for years to come. I know I did, although most of mine were hand-me-downs from my older brother (thankfully we were not so poor as to require a hand–me-down bike from my older sister).

    I have some great nephews. But they get an absolute deluge of stuff from their various uncles, aunts, grandparents, and parents. I wonder what that will do to them? What will that kind of unmerited abundance do to the rest of us?

    Well, I guess it beats poverty. And yet my bet is, including myself, there are a whole lot of people looking for something more, but all they ever seem to get is stuff made of plastic…or food rich in fat, butter, and sugar. Maybe that’s all there is and can ever be. In that case, may you all get each and every material wish you desire. If it’s not the case, may you get off your asses, write about the true Spirit of Christmas, and submit it here. 😀

    Mr. Kung’s story contains part of that spirit: Don’t be a spoiled little boy. Suck it up and make the best of things not working out exactly as you would have liked it. Luckily it sounds as if he had a father who understood that getting a present early was not something to cry about. Perhaps if a present or blessing comes a little late, we should keep that in mind as well.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      You read about Little House on the Prairie types of stories where getting a few pieces of candy in the stocking was the light of a child’s eye on Christmas morning and that puts into some perspective the Power Rangers, Barbie dolls, and all the other commercial crap we (or a sister, in case of the Barbies) thought we needed to have or we would die

      I must have read one of these stories when I was about 8 or 9 years old. That was before the TV series and I had no idea about the author. But the book made a big impression on me which lasts to this day.

      I can recall the little girl recalling the family being far from any neighbors. As I recall, the weather had been bad and the river was swollen so they could not go anywhere. Luckily, a friend braved the river and rode out to them (on behalf of Santa) with a sack which contained presents.

      The presents are quite simple but the girl was so happy to receive them. I think she and her sister (?) received new tin drinking cups, but the big thrill was when the man reached down into the bottom of the bag and pulled out shiny new pennies for the children. The girl was almost in ecstasy. The thrill she got from that one cent piece was wonderful. How times have changed!

      • Timothy Lane says:

        A penny was worth more then. It is reported that a girl was killed in the Old Brewery in New York City (later torn down and replaced by the infamous Five Points neighborhood) because she made the mistake of showing that she had a penny.

        Note that the stories were written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was one of the 1940s mothers of libertarianism (the others were Isabel Patterson and Ayn Rand). One of those influenced by her was Roger MacBride, who in 1972 was a Virginia elector who voted for the Libertarian candidates, John Hospers and Toni Nathan. (Richard Nixon lost an electoral vote to a “faithless elector” each time he ran for President.) This led to MacBride being the Libertarian candidate in 1976. He was also involved in making the TV series, thus completing a circuit.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Heh, a penny could buy a lot of candy in those days. Even when I was a kid, a dime could buy a lot of candy.

          When I was a boy, I went to the movie theater many Saturdays and was given 50 cents. The movie cost 25 cents so I could use the balance 25 cents as I wished. A soft drink cost a dime at the theater so I had 15 cents left over. I would go to the Woolworth’s in the same shopping center and buy a bunch of candy. In those days, the candy was sold buy the piece, not in a pre-wrapped pack. I could pick out one red jaw-breaker, one piece of turquoise colored bubble gum covered with sugar crystals, chocolate covered raisins, a few malted milk balls, etc, etc. I would walk out with one or two little brown bags of teeth destroyers. (We didn’t get soft drinks or sweets, including desserts during the rest of the week.)

          I can remember the first movie which cost 50 cents. It was “Alakazam the Great”. It was quite annoying.

          It’s like I can remember the first time I paid more than a dime for a coke. I was 12 and was in New Jersey for a church trip. We went to NYC for lunch and a coke cost 50 cents. Outrageous!

          • Timothy Lane says:

            When we were in Greece, we would sometimes go over to the American Club to swim (it was within walking distance of our house). They had a snack bar, and I was often given a quarter to use there. I recall that it cost 18 cents for a hamburger, 7 for french fries, and 25 for a cheeseburger. It made for an unpleasant choice. (They gave the prices both in American and Greek currency.)

  10. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t recall using wish lists for Christmas, but they always managed to give me some nice gifts that I had no way of anticipating, so that worked well. Today, we trade books with my sister, and provide lists of what we want. (This year I relied on my list of desired books that I mostly get from the StubbornThings bookshelf and reviews.) This way we (hopefully) don’t know exactly what we’ll get.

    And while I’m at it: I wish you all a very merry Christmas. And on Earth, peace to men of good will (which should include all of us here at ST).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Parents have a way of wheedling the information out of us as to what we’d like for Christmas — not that they need to work all that hard. Not all kids are as obvious about what they want as Ralphie was regarding his Red Rider BB gun, but most are not far behind.

      The way it worked at our house is that we got what we got, but it was understood that we could ask Santa Claus for something. And if that something was reasonable, it would be under the tree when we woke on Christmas morning. We’d open all presents on Christmas Eve except the one from Santa that arrived on Christmas day.

      Now Christmases are a little more peaceful. Frank, Bing, Elvis, Dean, and even Miss Piggy are the pleasant backdrop to the season. I didn’t do cookies this year. I didn’t have the Spirit for it. And, frankly, I don’t really need the calories either. But we had a little party the other day. I got together with my brothers and watched “Elf.” My older brother had never seen it. Neither of us are fans of Will Ferrell but it’s hard not to fall for his juvenile charm in this film.

      And my older brother’s foster 3-year-old boy sat entranced by it. Hey, it’s Santa, in all his red jovial glory — even if the crusty old libtard playing him was Ed Asner. But the kid didn’t care…and neither did I.

      But I think we could have watched a test pattern on TV and the kid would have been just as entranced. He spent most of his first two years abandoned by his drug-addled parents, relegated to a play-pen prison and fed copiously just to shut him up. I got him a present (some books). But I think just being with him was the gift.

      Merry Christmas. And in the words of Tiny Tim (not Lane, in this case), God Bless Us, Every One!

      • Timothy Lane says:

        You bet I’m not tiny. And since our usual Christmas dinner these days is the lunch buffet at Shalimar Indian restaurant, I won’t be getting tinier any time soon.

        What we used to do at Christmas was have a gift hand-out session in the morning (probably after breakfast, but I don’t remember that specifically). First we would empty out our stockings (which were large, sturdy, individualized ones only used for Christmas), then my parents would hand out the presents (more or less) under the tree (some of which were from Santa, of course). A lot of what we did was done as a family. Decorating the tree was done that way, and sometimes we went out (probably Christmas Eve) to look at the outside Christmas lights in the area.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          First we would empty out our stockings (which were large, sturdy, individualized ones only used for Christmas)

          We also had such stockings. My mother hand-made one for each of the children. I still have mine which is close to 60 years old.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I would imagine my mother made ours, but as the youngest I wouldn’t know. I have no idea what happened to them, but most of our Christmas stuff was lost long ago, probably abandoned when we moved from a house to an apartment in 1976.

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