Tag Archives: The Apartment

Even a Miracle Needs a Hand . . .

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.

A_Charlie_Brown_Christmas_(Rmst)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.)

night beforeBut 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.

love actuallyThis 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.

The-Apartment-classic-movies-5244650-1280-720“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.


It’s Christmas . . . Don’t Be Sad for Me

There’s a recurring phrase that is uttered throughout this time of year.  Not to each other, it’s not a common phrase like “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “Happy New Year” . . . nothing like that.  It’s a phrase that I hear a lot . . .and it’s not just me.  I know others who lost their spouse and they get it too:

“It must just be so hard this time of year.”

Well . . . sure, it’s kind of hard.  But the thing is it’s not as hard as you think.

I know, I know, I’ve written about this before, here and on Good Enough Mother.

Still, I think it’s worth exploring just one more time.

A photo of one of our early, chaotic Christmases . . .
A photo of one of our early, chaotic Christmases . . .

Fall and Christmas are my favorite times of the year, they always have been.  I absolutely marvel at the change in the scenery, the firey red leaves and the muted earth tones that nature herself foists upon us as the weather turns colder.  The hardest part of the year . . . and it’s no coincidence that the blog started right then . . . was the fall that first year.  I love the crisp change in the season and the ability to put on a warm sweater and then find the person you love and just hold them.  It’s not sexual, it’s not lascivious, it’s sensual.  It’s loving and close and just . . . warm, inside and out.  I loved walking and hearing the leaves crunch under our feet.  I loved making drinks after and warming up and relaxing and starting a fire and just enjoying the season.

Christmas was the same.  It was stressful, painful, difficult, expensive, and just plain ridiculous.  I loved every m

Getting the Tree
Getting the Tree

inute of it.

That first Fall and Christmas were really hard for me and I don’t remember much about them.  Sure, I remember the presents and how the kids reacted, but the season?  Nothing.

But we made it through the cold.  It was a hard fought year, not one without its own stresses, but we made it.  We’re okay.  That’s hard for people to understand or believe, that we could possibly be okay.  I get that, it’s hard to imagine what you would do if the circumstances happened to you.  I didn’t have to imagine.

Still, last Christmas was great.  This one . . . though we don’t have as much money and I couldn’t get us out to visit my folks . . . it’s still great.  Why?  The kids and I are together and that’s all that matters.  We’re stronger together than when we’re apart.

As much as I love this time of year, last year I still woke up every morning having to adjust to the emptiness next to me in the bed.  This year I get up and do my routine.  That’s not losing her, that’s living with living without her.

It was important to me . . . the kids . . . all the family that we not lose the holidays to our loss.  It would be so easy to despair and make it a horrible time of year.  Instead, we embraced the holiday.  We bought the tree, we listened to Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas record, and we didn’t let little things get to us.

Tonight I made two pies, tarts and cookies.  We have the stuff for Christmas meal.  We have the stuff we need for the holiday.  I’m not sad, I’m excited.  The routines that could have killed us I embrace and enjoy.

So tomorrow night . . . well, tonight, since it’s now after Midnight as I write this, I’ll prepare for the big guy in the red suit to get credit for being the Christmas hero.  I’ll do what I’ve done every Christmas Eve since we lived in Texas . . . I’ll turn on one of my favorite movies – The Apartment with Jack Lemmon, and ready the house for Santa’s presents.  I’ll take a moment to realize my own Miss Kubelik isn’t here but still love every minute of the exhaustion that the season brings with it.  Sure, I’ll have twinges and memories.  That wound inside will always have moments that hurt.  Sights, smells, songs, even routines and traditions will bring that.  But it’s about remembering and honoring as much as it is moving forward.  The kids and I deserve to have great, happy, Merry Christmases.

It’s not about loss, you see.  It’s about life.