I wish I was the type who teared up over It’s a Wonderful Life. I suppose it’s my cold dead heart which prevents me from even enjoying what I find to be a maudlin movie. Instead, I’m more of A Christmas Story watcher. I watch Grinch every year (the cartoon, not the Jim Carrey debacle) and I’m sentimental when it comes to memories and traditions with my daughter. Yet, I cannot watch Jimmy Stewart become grateful for what he does have in his life and take it seriously.
This year we’ve put up our tree, minus some ornaments which are being held hostage by an ex. Instead of being bitter by it all, I’m looking at this as an opportunity to create new traditions with my daughter. The problem is we can’t think of a new tradition. We trimmed the tree as usual, we’re baking cookies today and we did manage to gorge ourselves on Christmas movies (minus It’s a Wonderful Life…yes, I know heresy). Yet, we cannot think of a new tradition to share to celebrate the new path of our life.
This year, first of many that have gone by, we are going to be with my parents. If you’ve been following my blog you know I have an entirely complicated relationship with them, especially my mother. I’m still angry with her and the wreckage she has caused this year and it continues. Sitting with them while decking the halls will be tense to say the least. My sister and I have already established our arrival and departure times so we do not have to suffer more than necessary. It’s sad this year instead of heartfelt homecoming, we are merely enduring the celebration.
I wanted this year to be different for my daughter. I wanted to be the type of mother who cried over It’s a Wonderful Life and wore atrocious bow covered sweaters with pride. I wanted to be the soccer mom she’s deserved. Instead we made a gingerbread ghetto and she made a Christmas octopus manger scene for our mantle. Yes, I said octopus. We’ll be baking cookies later while watching Elf and sipping hot chocolate with cinnamon. We’ll laugh and eat raw cookie dough and I’m sure there will be a beheaded snowman made. At some point, we’ll argue about something trivial. It will be our version of a sentimental holiday.
Maybe I don’t like It’s a Wonderful Life because everything comes wrapped up in a bright red bow. Jimmy watches his life crumble around him, but his loving wife is there to pick up his pieces and his children are nauseatingly precious. He decides life isn’t worth living, but his guardian angel shows him that even at his worst, he matters in the life of his loved ones. Apparently the entire town collapses without him. Rubbish, I say. He then realizes despite his utter failures, he matters to those who love him and he rushes home to some cliches and a cute ending.
In my opinion he’s a narcissist of the worst order and selfish beyond compare. I’m glad his epiphany prevented him from devastating his children with a Christmas memory of their father throwing himself off a bridge. In my opinion, he shouldn’t have needed a guardian angel in the first place. Life sucks, accept it and keep moving forward. I don’t need an angel working hard for his wings to remind me I am important in someone’s life, not just for Christmas, but year round. It’s my duty as a parent to take the lumps and prevail despite them. It’s a gift I’m putting under the tree for my kid, one that I never received from mine.
So as we bake cookies, maybe our new tradition will be embracing our weirdness. We’ll watch only the holiday movies we like and not feel bad about the rest. We’ll make inappropriate cookies and laugh about it. Maybe we’ll eat pasta as our Christmas meal. Who cares? It’s our holiday to celebrate however we see fit.
Oh wait, I didn’t mention Miracle on 34th Street. Now that movie leaves me sobbing into my snuggie. There, I’m not so cold dead hearted after all!