Saturday, November 8, 2014
I have received no small amount of flack in recent years over my love for the corniest of all possible movies...the Hallmark Christmas movie of the week. Now, I don't pretend to insist that they are all outstanding. Some are completely dreadful, with laughable child actors, unlikable faux villains, and horrible can't-pay-for-song-royalties-soundtracks that make me cringe. And then there was that one set in my hometown...featuring palm trees. Unforgivable. Everything hinges on the chemistry between the romantic leads, and when it fails, it's disasterous. (Excellent life lesson, incidentally.) When it works, though? Magic.
And while I know that it is unreasonable and highly romanticized to believe that life and love can be wrapped up in two pat hours, these Hallmark movies still deeply appeal to my whole sense of story, and how my life - and your life...anybody's really - is just a series of episodes. Lots of them are really mundane, and then some of them are actually quite movie-of-of-the-week worthy. And this movie might not appeal to everyone, but for its target audience, it is quite diverting for a little while, and makes those who settle in to watch it feel just the tinest bit more awake and sentimental and smooshy round the middle.
And isn't Christmas that way, really? Isn't that why we all like it? It allows for experiences that make us smooshy round the middle, kind of tender-hearted and grateful, and allows for those moments we exhale and say..."THIS. This feeling, these people, this moment is why I work so hard all year and move from task to task with such a determined and break-neck place. I do it to earn the chance to see these beautiful people in the glow of the twinkle lights and the warmth of the fire and the buzz of the wine and the smell of the Yankee Candles and say...thanks." And then sing some songs about it.
And just to get really woo-woo about it all, let me add this. I could leave this planet tomorrow, satisfied that I had lived my life to the fullest. And I think that if I were to walk into the light and my life flashed before my eyes, it would be an epic heavenly slideshow of my life in Christmases. Starting with believing in Santa SO HARD as a little girl, listening to hear sleigh bells in the snow, and having my realization and my discovery be so slow and gentle that my faith never actually went away. I totally still believe in Santa. I have BEEN Santa. How could I not believe after that? There is nothing realer than making Santa for your kid. It is such a pure kind of love, isn't it? And I am a part of that. I have written a letter to Santa every single year of my life, and have no plans to ever stop.
I remember my brother and I sitting on the upstairs landing on Christmas morning, waiting for my parents to light the tree and call us down, making us pause to take a picture on the stairs. My first Christmas Boyfriend, making sweet homemade gifts for each other and singing "Do You Hear What I Hear" with our high school choir. My college friends and the birth of Faux Christmas. From playing an improv volleyball game, ankle deep in snow, with no actual ball, of course...to jumping from apartment to apartment through the years with our box of homemade ornaments, playing Patterns as we all tried to launch our lives. We have been striving together ever since, and even now, two decades later, we still gather for Christmas, and toast each other and sing songs. "Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more." Quiet conversations with individual friends in the kitchen. Mistletoe in every doorway, so much affection. Pete pounding carols on the keyboard while Liana and I try to find harmonies. Eventually, our collective children "cousin-ing" while watching Rudolph and making crafts and sneaking soda. A million cherished Christmasy moments with my Tribe, with many more to come. My perfect Christmas wedding, its memory still too tender and bittersweet to dwell on. Two small girls, pausing on the stairs in their footie snowman pajamas while I took a photo of their faces alight, eager to see what Santa had brought. A pink and purple plastic kitchen (meticulously assembled by their father on Christmas Eve as the credits rolled on "It's a Wonderful Life.") An American Girl doll bed. A cowboy suit for Snowball, Amelia's ragged, beloved little grey dog, his neck floppy from relentless adoration. Trips to New York City with the girls and my mom, posing in front of the Rockefeller Center Tree and looking into the beautiful window displays in Macy's and Bergdorf's. Hot chocolate at Serendipity and Broadway shows like "Elf" and "White Christmas." These are all real things that have happened, and nothing makes me more hopeful about my life than imagining what other beautiful Christmases I might get to make.
Which brings me to this one. I know people think I am crazy for listening to Christmas music starting, oh, at least three weeks ago. But you have to understand how things are now. I have been through the two worst years of my whole entire life. Racked with heartbreak like you read about. Working my tail off to learn a whole new job in the midst of this turmoil, after 20 years in the same career. And then these new things happened very recently...I got this amazing role in this amazing play with people I truly adore and treasure...an indisputable Christmas classic where I get to wear a red velvet dress and carry a white fir muff. FOR REAL. I am loved by the sweetest guy, who genuinely wants to watch Hallmark movies with me and see the season through my very rose-colored lenses, and joyfully, gratefully, celebrate all that a "Romantic Christmas" has to offer. My girls are thriving, and while I know they understand the truth about Santa, they are still kind of hoping for magic...a new kind of magic...and as it turns out, I completely get it. And I know just how to oblige. It is another gift of the season...a chance to express to my girls that I understand them, that I appreciate and value the culture of this life we have created under challenging circumstances. Christmas magic, y'all. Let's make some new kinds. My friends will gather again. We will take the girls to see the Rockefeller tree. Though some part of me used to fear it, it turns out that there is actually no expiration date on Christmas magic. It's not just for children after all. I am not at all ashamed to declare myself the poster child, the target audience for this little fact.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my favorite books. Anne of Green Gables. Little Women. In all of them, many examples of how to Christmas, and I have taken lessons from every one, as well as from my mother, of course, who embodies the essence of Mrs. Claus. I have taken those examples and forged something completely my own, something that I take with me through all of these continually changing seasons of my life. So much has changed. Some things for the better, and some less so. But I am designed to make the best of things. I know no other way. You will get your lemons, but put on your big girl pants and make your freaking lemonade! And the thing about Christmas is that there is so much sweetness all around, a collective feeling of goodwill, and making that lemonade is just so much easier to this particular Bing Crosby/Johnny Mathis/Carpenters soundtrack. And on some days, the best days, that lemonade becomes a perfectly chilled lemondrop martini.
I can wish that for me, and for you, and for all of humankind, because if Christmas has taught me anything, it's that goodwill for all is a very real thing, and the only thing. Give generously. Sing loud for all to hear. God bless us, every one.
To my big brother, George. The richest man in town.
With nary two nickles to rub together, I am living in an embarrassment of riches, and I will continue to count every blessing instead of sheep.
I will end, now, before I write one more Christmas cliche. (Not for nothing, listen to Nancy LaMott sing "All Those Christmas Cliches." It's my actual theme song.)
May your days be merry and bright.
See what I did there? I had room for one more.
Posted by Kindred Spirit at Saturday, November 08, 2014