Sunday, December 11, 2005


With just two weeks to go before the big day, I’ve had a real Christmasy weekend. Last night was the firm Christmas party, and I managed to get through the evening without making an ass of myself. Today we took the little fella to see Santa, and he waited patiently in lined to sit on the lap of the jolly old elf.

I use things like Santa pictures to provide a visual record of my son’s descent into autism, and the gradual decline of his autistic symptoms. From the excited look on his face before his regression, to the blank expression of a little boy who would only stand in front of Mr. C, to the happy smile of a boy trying to forge a relationship with Santa. A good picture just makes for a happier Christmas.

We try to do Christmas right around the Rankin house. Like many people in post-Katrina Louisiana, we decided to scale back our decorations a little. That means it only took me one full day instead of two to string up the lights outside. Although we have not done “the full Griswold,” you can see our house from a pretty good distance at night.

The radio stays tuned to holiday music, and we actively seek out Christmas movies on television. Every year I add to a long list of Christmas movies I love. From old favorites like White Christmas to newer movies like Elf. I’ll sit and laugh with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or get into a little more sentimental mood with Love Actually. I’m still trying to figure out an appropriate reaction to Bad Santa, but I think I liked it.

There are five movies I consider classics, with at least one viewing of each being required for a complete Christmas season. In reverse order my favorites are:

5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

This one’s been remade a couple of times. Nothing can touch the original for two reasons: Natalie Wood as the little girl struggling with what to believe and Edmund Gwenn as the real deal.

4. It’s a Wonderful Life

Because NBC now owns the exclusive air rights to this movie, we don’t see it quite as much as we used to. It’s worth a little extra effort to catch it.

3. The Polar Express

It’s rare that a movie can become a classic from the moment it is released. This one qualifies. Believe.

2. A Christmas Story

In what other movie can you hear Santa utter the immortal words: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

1. Scrooge (a/k/a A Christmas Carol) (1951)

Dickens’ classic tale of redemption has been made and remade more probably than any other story. At least two of the versions have been entitled Scrooge, including my favorite, the 1951 movie starring Alistair Sim as the miser. He never stoops to stereotypes playing Ebeneezer, and every moment rings true.

The heart of Scrooge comes toward the end when Ebeneezer, for the first time in many years, decides to seek out the company of others. He goes to the home of his nephew, Fred, to seek forgiveness and share in the joy of the day, but he isn’t at all sure what reception he might find. Scrooge is let into Fred’s house by a young maid, a person that wouldn’t have even registered on Scrooge’s consciousness just 24 hours before. Now he looks to her for encouragement, and it is only after she gives him a little nod, that Ebeneezer can walk into the room where his nephew’s party is being held.

The scene between Scrooge and the maid, in which no words are spoken, is among the finest 30 seconds of film ever presented. That brief encounter reminds me that nobody is truly alone at Christmas. All one has to do is reach out a little.

Enjoy the holidays.


Blogger Eileen said...

I am glad to hear the little guy waited patiently in line to see Santa.

We just watched the Christmas Story yesterday. It was fun to watch Brian's face as h watched the little boy stick his tongue to the pole. He was very concerned.

I love the Polar Express. We saw it last year in the theater, but I think I 'll need to go purchase that one.

12/11/05, 9:37 PM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Thanks for helping us all to be part of "something bigger" by your comments (on our various blogs) and your commentary here. At the rick of being treacly sentimental, it's a way of shedding more light than your house in partial "full Griswold" mode does down the block. My husband is counting down the days till a Charlie Brown Xmas shows again on Friday.....

12/12/05, 4:01 PM  
Anonymous kyra said...

thanks for the reminders of the wonderful christmas classics! we just watched, It's a Wonderful Life the other night and cried our eyes out. LOVE that movie. well, i love jimmy stewart so, you know... we haven't seen Polar Express. maybe we'll get it from netflix.

the image of using the santa photos as a visual record related to your son's autism is very powerful and moving to me.

12/12/05, 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you're interested in newer Christmas movies, I'd recommend "The Happy Elf". It is an animated film, sort of like a cross between "Elf" and "The Polar Express". The story follows an elf trying to bring Christmas to Bluesville town. Great message behind it too.

12/13/05, 10:17 PM  
Blogger mommyguilt said...

Anonymous was right about "The Happy Elf". We caught it by chance when we were putting up our tree. It was very very cute. I haven't seen Polar Express, but I've got the book in the package with the Jingle Bell. I, too, am waiting patiently for Charlie Brown. I swear, if my daughter has a basketball game, the choice will be to watch Charlie Brown...bad mama..

Which reminds me. We saw Bad Santa about a month or two ago. Like you, I'm not certain, but I think I liked it.

Thanks, Wade, for the holiday wishes. We'd love to see a picture of the not-so-"full Griswald" house all decked out!

12/14/05, 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What?!?! No "Meet me in St Louis"? Oh, for shame!

- Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas/Let your heart be light/
From now on/Our troubles will be out of sight....

12/14/05, 3:35 PM  

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