What do you watch during the holidays?
I ask because the culture has completely changed. I don’t say it’s for the worse, but it’s changed. Those same cartoons and specials were on when I was a kid, but they ran once . . . just once . . . and you waited, near shaking, waiting for them to come on the TV. Then you watched and that was it.
Today, there are marathons of shows that people watch and are on the television. Many households have more than one and they relegate the kids to one room and adults to the other.
I watch the specials with my kids. I get just as excited, too. We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas because it’s tradition, it’s fun, and I challenge anyone to say it’s not the greatest Christmas record ever made. (I have it on green vinyl, by the way.)
But a lesser-known cartoon with Joel Grey and George Gobel (look him up, folks, I knew who he was and I’m not old!) was ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I loved this because there’s a message so many lose. The show is about a town that Santa is angry with. This man and his family are working to make a clock to get his attention. During this they sing a song and the refrain is “even a miracle needs a hand.” I have always liked this message. “You hope and I’ll hurry, you pray and I’ll plan. We’ll do what’s necessary ’cause even a miracle needs a hand.”
Look to whomever you need for presents or help . . . but you also have to help yourself!
Adults and singles all debate what they think is the best Christmas movie. NBC runs It’s a Wonderful Life. A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation always get top billing.
This year, maybe because of the 10th anniversary of the film or the writing or what have you, a raging debate is brewing over the movie Love, Actually. Tons of news agencies from The Atlantic to Fox News to The Guardian and New York magazine weighed in. They hate it. They love it. It’s a movie, no more or less. I love the writing. I love the acting. My daughter despises this movie. I don’t. Where the debate against it fails is when they say these gestures don’t happen and it’s unrealistic. I’ve done the massive, make-a-fool-of-yourself gesture. No. It didn’t work. But life isn’t like the movies. Good for you if this movie brings you delight. If it has Rowan Atkinson and the director wrote an episode of Doctor Who it’s good in my book.
But my go-to movie, every year, since my middle child was born is not the most remembered movie. It’s the Jack Lemmon/Billy Wilder movie The Apartment. It takes place at Christmas, is totally of the Mad Men era, and it’s not PC at all. But it was on during one Christmas when I helped Santa put the presents under the tree. I started when the movie began and ended when it was over. All while I labored, my wife, who helped to wrangle the kids and everything, was asleep on the couch. Exhausted. At certain points in the movie she’d awaken asking if I needed help and I’d kiss her cheek and tell her to rest.
“I love you Davie,” she’d say, smiling, knowing she was the only person I allowed to call me that. She’d fall asleep but every once in awhile I’d feel her hand stroke my hair and I’d smile. Then I took a present I’d hidden and put it in her stocking for the morning. She’d made me swear we wouldn’t buy each other presents. I reneged on that promise. Proudly.
It’s not the most romantic of memories. It’s certainly not the most realistic of movies. But I put it on every year since Andrea passed away. It’s not self-loathing, it’s remembering the warmth.
At the end of the day it’s the memories that matter. Be it animated messages of the holidays or a much-debated rom-com. We all want to be Hugh Grant in Love, Actually. Reality is I’d be fine with being Lemmon’s CC Baxter. We’re all more like the nervous, jittery, scared Martin Freeman. Happy endings aren’t always there. The movie says that pretty well.
It’s reality. And even a miracle needs a hand.