Christmas 2009

In the haze of my nostalgia, I forgot all about the 1973 Christmas special with Jason Robards titled The House Without a Christmas Tree. More cheery fair in the heart-wrenching tradition that is December entertainment.

Robards is a widower who refuses to put up a Christmas tree much to the dismay of his 11 year old daughter. It is 1946 in small, small town Nebraska and the little girl plots to get a tree into her home, sure that if her father saw it, he would change his mind. She wins the class tree and brings it home, but her father orders her to remove it, so she ends up dragging it to the home of a girl in her class whose family was too poor to afford one. The grandmother who lives with them shames the father into being less of a prick.

“Seriously, being an asshole to your child  for Christmas will make things all better for you?”

Okay, she didn’t say THAT but it was the polite of yore version of “put on your big boy tightie whiteys cuz shit happens”.

He surprises the girl with a tree, there is something about a star for the top that I can’t remember anymore, and they all go to her school Christmas pageant – the end. Except the girl grows up and never marries as far as I can tell and the father lives out his life alone because grandma, of course, dies eventually and every year they put that old star on the tree together and remember that Christmas in 1946. The end. Warms the soul, eh?

It has the standard John-boy voice over of the day and odd fade outs to pictures because, I think, the girl grows up to be an artist but I think they did that on the Waltons too.

Oh, and I found J.T. Christmas in Harlem in the late 60’s. Very up-lifting. And I think the cat dies.

You can imagine how eye-opening this story was to a 6-ish year old girl in Iowa.

Christmas specials wouldn’t have been as special without thematic commercials.

Then The Waltons Homecoming. Classic. This is one of my favorite scenes. A “missionary” comes from the city to deliver gifts to the poor little boys and girls of the Blue Ridge Mountain. Mary Ellen feeding bible verses to the kids so they can collect cast off toys from wealthy homes. John-boy’s supplying a neighbor girl with a verse from the Song of Solomon and the missionary’s reaction is a hoot as are the looks he and Mary Ellen exchange as glassy-eyed Depression kids with open mouths wait for the charity “goodies” and the missionary basks in her own awesomeness.

And no Christmas of Yore would be complete without Andy and the Osmonds.

A wholesome end to my virtual Christmas Card, dear readers. Hey, it could have been a cheesy holiday letter. I have done that to you before, you know.

Merry Christmas.

As I mentioned to UB yesterday, I should have been a history teacher, or a pure literature teacher, because I loved to insert history into my English classes.

December was Dickens just so I could watch A Christmas Carol. My 7th graders never failed to be horrified by 1830’s London. Even coming from some of the poorest working class homes, they were soft by comparison to the working poor of those days. Society’s expectations of the classes and it’s complete indifference to poverty shocked them though I don’t know that any of them drew comparisons between then and now though I tried to draw them.

I read them the opening of the story because it’s awesome and I don’t say that about Dickens lightly. Normally, I find his prose thick and cumbersome to wade through but here he almost reminds me of Twain,

“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail. “

One of my favorite scenes is Jacob Marley confronting Scrooge.

George C. Scott will always be Scrooge to me.

It’s a great speech Jacob gives though I think the last exchange between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present has more bite,

Edward Woodward rocks the house in this part.

I especially loved,

Scrooge: “I am taxed for them. Isn’t that enough?”

Ghost: “Is it?”

So apt for our world today which is sad because it was equally appropriate nearly 180 years ago too. Humans are nothing if not near-sighted in perspective and ability to empathize.

Merry Christmas. And (insert your preference) bless us, every one.