The Spirit of Christmas (Movies)

It’s been three days since Christmas, and the child gift report is in: Hands down, the LeapFrog tablet is the winner, with the small kitchen and appliances coming in second place. Our boy also received a set of tools. So far, he is partial to the kitchen: Mama feels validated.

Happy 3-year-old’s Christmas kitchen. SHOP EARLY! This doubled in price after I purchased it, and trust me, that means a lot to our little family right now.

There is still some toffee and cookies left, and we’ve resumed exercise and some measure of lighter, healthier eating–before we go to Puerto Rico for New Year’s and Three Kings Day, and it all goes out the window again … Plus, my husband and I finished our Christmas champagne on Boxing Day. It’s a tradition we have, opening a bottle every year on Christmas Day, but we haven’t been able to finish it in one day for years. On Boxing Day, we also wrapped up the final installment in our annual Christmas movie rotation.

Sure, we’re lightweights these days, but the bubbly was just as bubbly the next day.

There is some variation in our rotation from year to year, usually in the first movie we watch early in December. This year, for instance, Home Alone was our first movie of the season. It had been a few years, and boy, how parenthood changes a person. I sat down for a carefree treat of mindless, predictable slapstick, and instead found myself getting worked up. Any time Kevin was terrified was very hard for me to watch, I don’t care how much attitude he had at the start. Also, all the previous times I’d watched this movie, I had disapproved of the mother apologizing to Kevin upon her return home. Ha. Not this time. Finally, there’s the “I would never forget my kid!” judgment element. I will say this, though. When I was very new to parenthood, there would be times in the car when my baby was so quiet, I panicked, thinking, “Oh my God, did I leave him?!” I’d have to reach over with my right hand, left hand still on the steering wheel, to pat his little head in his car seat for reassurance. And I have been known to order a meal at a restaurant and completely forget to order him food. It’s not the same as getting on a plane to Europe without him–I still don’t think this could happen but mostly because he’s an only child so he’s a lot easier to keep track of–but there have been brief moments of “forgetting,” or of fearing that I did.

The second movie we watched this year is a regular. Love Actually. I first saw this one when it was released in theaters, and I found it ridiculous and over-the-top sappy. It’s all about setting the scene properly, folks. The second time, I was on a plane coming back from Paris, where my husband and I had just gotten engaged. Oh, and they poured a lot of free champagne on the flight. The tears flowed freely and shamelessly. Several airplane napkins were required. It’s been true love ever since. I even love the idiot who travels to Milwaukee, and I find the adult film stand-ins adorable.

Professor Snape and Professor Trelawny play husband and wife! 🙂

Is it ridiculous that whiny Hugh Grant is the Prime Minister? Of course it is. It’s also annoying that Colin Firth flies to Marseilles to find Aurelia, only Marseilles is in France, and Aurelia and everyone in her community/town are Portuguese speakers. And don’t get me started on “molto … is Spanish!” I could pull my hairs out. But I forgive them; the appeal to me doesn’t lie in the stories’ elements being plausible or even sensible. I dare anyone to not feel anything–besides derisive cynicism–when Liam Neeson’s stepson runs through Heathrow airport while Colin Firth rushes through the streets of the Portuguese-speaking Marseilles village. I’ve made that sprint through Heathrow airport, more than once, under far less romantic circumstances; that they can make it look so beautiful and touching is nothing short of a miracle. And if that doesn’t do it for you, the scene also involves Bill Nighy performing a hilarious strip tease on live TV. By the time random people are greeting and embracing each other while The Beach Boys sing God Only Knows in the closing credits, I am a weepy mess. Oh, I loveLoveLOVE it!

Scored this bit of awesomeness as a stocking stuffer.

Last weekend was all about Ralphie, Randy, Flick and the flagpole, Schwartz, Schwartz’s hat, Scut Farkus, a Major Award!, and a “Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.” I could go on and on about the many things I adore about A Christmas Story. But I’ll just mention a few. Ralphie winking at his teacher when he turns in his theme about what he wants for Christmas. The lamp. The Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin. Randy in his snow suit. The line to see Santa Claus in the department store. Lifebuoy soap. The Old Man and the furnace. Plus, I really love the moments of tenderness between Ralphie and his mother (after his fight with Scut Farkus), and with the Old Man (Christmas morning).

This hangs on the wall above my dresser.

Finally, we save It’s a Wonderful Life for last every year, and this was no exception. There is something so fundamentally resonant, so powerful about unseen acts of kindness having a profound impact on our world, I believe it’s a story that needs to be told and retold, in as many ways as possible, forever. I live in a city largely populated by the Harry Bailey’s and Sam Wainwright’s, individuals who have succeeded in “shakin’ the dust” of their respective hometowns off their feet and seen the world, and become “important.” I suppose I am/was among them, too. I love our successes, feel strongly about the value of being highly educated, and I know a lot of DC people who do good, good work (I am married to one). But whenever I feel conflicted about a standard of so-called success and importance that I often see around me, I take comfort in this Dalai Lama quote that I so love.

My favorite characters in It’s a Wonderful Life are Clarence, Annie, Mr. Gower, Martini, Uncle Billy … okay, most people except Mr. Potter. And the old maid-librarian routine in the alternate life never fails to crack me up. I mean, old-maid Mary is wearing glasses, and she has bad eyebrows. The horror! I love it. Then, at the end, when Harry comes home from the war to a hero’s welcome, and says, “A toast to my big brother, George, the richest man in town,” I swear, my heart grows a few sizes. I know I am no George Bailey, but I can tell you this: I haven’t had a paycheck to my name in years, and our traditional Christmas bottle of Veuve Clicquot has long been replaced by much cheaper stuff, but after I am finished watching this movie, I might as well be “the richest girl in town!”

Thank you, O Magazine (Dec 2013 issue)


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