My Earliest Childhood Memory

Day 3 of my June blogging challenge, and it’s again more difficult than I expected. The problem is that I have to sort between what are my actual recollections, and what are the images in my mind that are really more combinations of stories retold about me and old photographs. Rupert the dragon, falling out of a swing at the park, feeding my brother dirt cookies… all are impressions, but none with real stories to go with them. Here’s a memory that I know is all there.

I remember the Christmas just after my fourth birthday. I visited my grandparents in Baton Rouge. Santa showed up while my grandmother was in the kitchen baking. (I always recall seeing her wearing a navy blue or black apron covered with big pink cabbage roses.) Santa asked me to come and sit in his lap, so I did. And then it happened. I looked at Santa’s hand, and made the comment that his rings looked exactly like my Grandma Ellen’s rings. He also smelled just like her– a mix of floral perfume, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Yep, I totally called out Santa/ Grandma in front of my whole family. Because I was the oldest grandchild, that one incident spoiled Santa visits for all my cousins to come.

And thus began the long tradition of my comments ruining all the fun at our family gatherings.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

 

It Really is a Wonderful Life

Preparing for Christmas, I find my mind wandering every different direction. I look back on the holidays of the past. I still remember the Christmas I went to visit my grandparents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and discovered that Santa wore the exact same rings as my Grandma Ellen. Hmmm…

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I remember watching A Christmas Carol at my grandparents’ house. The soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas still sets the mood for my holidays each year. My first date with my (now) husband was to see A Christmas Story. Click to see and purchase! Click to see and purchase!

One of my favorite traditions for the season is watching It’s a Wonderful Life, with Donna Reed, Jimmy Stewart, and Lionel Barrymore. The themes from the film have been recycled over and over, year after year, but the original is still the best, in my opinion. Click to see and purchase!

It’s the story of a man – a husband, father, son, brother, employee – who has a bad day. A very bad day. This man feels completely out of options. He’s desperate, and decides the world would be better off without him. He wishes he had never been born.

To the rescue comes his guardian angel, who gives him a special gift. He shows our down-and-out hero what the world would have been like without him, and it is not a pretty picture. The movie poses the question: Do I really matter?

The film answers the question for our hero – of course he does. But the message of the story is that we all matter. Every single life makes a difference. Each person touches the others around him in such a unique and powerful way, that without even just one person in their proper place, things become very different.

In a season of reflection, I find myself missing all of the precious people that have passed away this last year. I consider how much has changed, and how grateful I am to have had them in my life.

At the end of Wonderful Life, Stewart’s character realizes what a real treasure he has. He reunites with his family and friends and celebrates the opportunity to a future of hope.

That’s what Christmas is truly about: HOPE.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thank you for reading, and have a very blessed Christmas.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It’s Christmas. No getting around it. No more putting off the decorating or shopping. Get out that reindeer sweater and your jingle-bell earrings. Find Grandma’s divinity recipe and build that gingerbread house. It’s time for merriment. Parties, plays, choir concerts and cookie swaps are everywhere you turn.

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Listening to the radio these days can be tough, though. I enjoy Christmas music. I sing I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, Santa Baby, and Jingle Bell Rock at the drop of a hat. I love the quiet and almost hallow notes of Silent Night and Away in a Manger. I like that Elvis, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eartha Kitt, Chris Isaak, and Michael Jackson all have Christmas tunes that weave seamlessly with the Carpenters and Bing Crosby. My only problem is all those tear-jerker songs.

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You know what songs I’m talking about. The Christmas Shoes, One Last Christmas, It Won’t Be the Same This Year, and The Little Boy Santa Claus Forgot all just bring tears to my eyes. I sure can’t drive while listening to them.

So all this music has got me thinking… Christmas is a time of emotions. We celebrate the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We get together with friends and family, near and far. We miss those who are no longer with us. We see great acts of sacrifice. We witness ridiculous acts of selfishness. We reminisce about past holidays and look forward to the coming year with hope.

Maybe this is why so many books and movies that really have nothing to do with the holidays have their stories nestled into the backdrop of Christmas. Consider all the “seasonal” films that really are about relationships or personal victories (or tragedies) and you’ll usually see that Christmas is just a setting. Most are not about Christmas at all.

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The Bishop’s Wife is about a troubled marriage. Penny Serenade is about a couple struggling with grief. Little Women is about sisters coming of age. While You Were Sleeping is a romantic comedy about loneliness. Even A Christmas Carol is a story about regret. They all just have Christmas time as another character in the tale. It is the binding that links the emotions of the characters with the audience. It’s good story-telling.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

A Movie for Christmas

November and December are typically wonderful months for movie-watching, because producers try very hard to get out as many family-friendly films and award contenders as possible before the end of the year. They know that kids are home from school, weary shoppers need a few hours of rest, and everyone is looking for a few hours of something to help them feel good.

Last month saw the release of The Christmas Candle, rated PG. This movie, based on a Max Lucado book, is about a small village with a legend of an angel who visits to touch a candle, granting the candle-lighter a Christmas miracle.

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Disney’s Frozen, PG, tells the story of an enchanted kingdom trapped in eternal winter.

 

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Black Nativity, PG, is cast with heavy-hitters Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Mary J. Blige, and newcomer Jacob Latimore. It’s about a youth dealing with difficult family dynamics in the holidays.

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December 13 will bring Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas as well as Saving Mr. Banks, both rated PG-13. While Madea is just what Tyler Perry fan’s expect, Mr. Banks is based on the true story of Walt Disney’s own quest to attain the film rights to P. L. Travers’ novel, Mary Poppins. It stars Tom Hanks as Disney and Emma Thompson as Travers. Though not specifically a holiday movie, it should be a good film for movie-lovers.

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Other films that will certainly make the family wish list are The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, PG-13, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, PG.

Smaug is the second installment of the Hobbit serial, and promises to set records with fan-girl fav Benedict Cumberbatch’s larger role as both Smaug and the Soothsayer.

Mitty is a remake of the 1947 film of the same name starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. I suppose we shall see if Ben Stiller can live up to Kaye’s standard.

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Still haven’t found the Christmas flick for you? Don’t worry, there are hundreds of cable channels filled with seasonal adventures.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

‘Tis the Season

I’m procrastinating a bit this year. Usually I conform to a strict routine of decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, and leaving all the festoons up until New Year’s Day. Well, if you read my last blog, you know that I’I’ve been preoccupied with other things lately. And now here it is the first week in December, and I haven’t done a bit of decorating.

I have noticed, however, that the Christmas lights and decorations went up early all over town. The holiday advertisements began a full month ago. The shopping season is short this year—that’s what I heard.

Since I was a child I’ve listened to others gripe about how commercialized Christmas has become. It’s worse every year. Maybe that’s true. My daddy is Santa Claus, so it’s hard for me to say.

This really is my dad!

One thing I have noticed, though, is how much the movies of Christmas have influenced the way we decorate for the season. I’ve seen pillows, wall hangings, lamps, ornaments, and every kind of knick-knack imaginable based on fun sayings, one-liners, or characters from Christmas movies.

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From A Christmas Story’s leg lamp, Seinfield’s Festivus T-shirts, Elf’s child-like expressions printed on everything you can think of, an entire It’s a Wonderful Life snow village, to Santa Claus is Coming to Town action figures—there is just about anything you can want. And if you want to scare a little kid with some Christmas spirit, you can even find a Bumble plush from Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Click to see and purchase!

Not only have movies become a part of our culture, vocabulary, but they’ve gone beyond that. They aren’t just something to do or see at Christmas, but they have woven themselves into the very fabric of the holiday. For better or worse, that’s Christmas in America. Certainly not the Reason for the Season, as they say, but an integral part of the merriment.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.