12/26/19

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

And Merry Christmas!

Now I know I could have said Merry Everything, or Merry all the different practices in the world, but I’m not. To me, Merry Christmas covers it all, not just Christians (and in fact, I get quite perturbed when I hear a Christian retort, “Say Merry Christmas! You liberals aren’t taking that from us!”, because there’s nothing to take). Any story with Santa Claus ends with him saying “Merry Christmas!” The classic Dickens tale A Christmas Carol isn’t about Christianity.

Christmas is giving. I find that to be the simplest definition.

BUT…that’s not what this blog is about. This is about my moment of happiness this week.

On Christmas day, after everyone who was going home went home, and Olivia was in her room, and Michael was cleaning up the demolished kitchen, I mentioned to him that I didn’t understand why I kept seeing Facebook posts about the movie Die Hard. “Why is everyone discussing watching Die Hard?” I asked. “What the heck?” Now I will admit I’ve never seen the movie. It’s not the sort of film I enjoy.

Michael explained to me that many people consider it a Christmas movie. When I asked why, because I understood it to be an action movie, he said, “Because it takes place at Christmas.”

So I pondered that for a bit. Is that all it takes to be a Christmas movie?

When I think back to all the movies and TV specials I watched as a kid and even now that I associate with Christmas, I came up with the following list:

A Christmas Story

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Frosty The Snowman

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (only the original please)

A Year Without A Santa Claus

The Night The Animals Talked

Santa Claus is Coming To Town

A Christmas Carol (I have particular fondness for the musical version)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (animated)

The Little Drummer Boy

And of course, of COURSE, The Homecoming, the made-for-TV movie that resulted in the TV series, The Waltons.

Ever since it came out in VHS (whenever that was) and now in DVD, I have watched The Homecoming on Christmas Eve. My brother calls John Boy John Boob. My ex-husband teased me and the show mercilessly whenever I watched it. And Michael, my current husband, holds his tongue until the Walton family is sitting around the radio, listening to Fibber McGee and Molly. Michael sputters that the particular episode they’re listening to was actually aired in 1940-something, not when this particular TV movie takes place. But I watch it avidly, settling in whatever couch or recliner or chair I have at the time, and I turn out all the lights and I refuse to talk to anyone. My shoulders relax, I take a deep breath, and I sink into that world. Either out loud or in my head, I recite each and every line.

The movie takes place on Christmas Eve in the Great Depression, and John, the father, is late getting home from his job far away, where he stays during the week to provide a paycheck for his family. There is a bus crash and Olivia, the mother, is sure John was on it. Eventually, Olivia sends out her oldest, John Boy, to look for him. Before then, she asks John Boy what he’s hiding in his mattress, and it turns out that it’s a tablet, where he’s been writing. He says,

Things stay in my mind, Mama. I can’t forget anything. And it all gets bottled up in here, and sometimes I feel like a crazy man. I… I can’t rest or sleep or anything till I just rush off up here and write it down in that tablet. Sometimes I think I really am crazy. If things had been different, Mama…I could have done something with my life. What I would have liked, Mama…was to have tried to be a writer.”

Olivia reassures him that he can, of course he can.

And every year, I sucked those words in, those words I didn’t hear from my own family, though I did hear it from the most wonderful line-up of teachers. I listened to them and I listened to Olivia and I listen to her still and I believed her.

And then…I believed in me.

Best Christmas gift ever. Year after year after year.

I won’t watch Die Hard, just because it takes place at Christmas time. Just give me The Homecoming. I accept its gift.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

On the screen. Lights out. Feet up in my recliner. Ready to go.

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