Thursday, December 6, 2012

Like a Bubble

I am so happy right now. I mean, down to my bones happy.

It is December. Decorations are up around the house - maybe a little more than usual, because I'm just in such a happy state. Our Christmas tree is gorgeous. It is a magic tree, I feel pretty certain. It usually takes going to three or four places til we find a good tree. Too dry, not big enough ... you know.

We headed out and at our very first place, there it was. We hadn't even given more than a cursory glance to any of the other trees, and there it was, leaning up against some others.

That can't be right, I told my partner. The first one we look at? We yanked at it to see if the needles would fall. Nope, not a one. Looked all around it. A little thin on one side, but that would make it easier, since we put it in that corner anyway ...

It is set up now, perfect. Lights, from trunk to tip. Ornaments we've collected over our 22+ years together. Many of them are ornaments by, about, or for, our children. Ornaments from when I was pregnant. When they were born. Pipe cleaner and construction paper ornaments they made.

It really is a wonderful tree.

This year, I think my favorite ornament is one of the most simple. It's a clear glass ball, with a tiny bit of iridescence to it. It looks like a soap bubble. Not just any soap bubble. You know how right before it bursts, a bubble will get even more shimmering and delicate? Yes, that's what this ornament looks like.

It is my favorite because it symbolizes what I know all too well. That happiness is ephemeral, fleeting.

Right now, my parents, my siblings, my children, my husband, my best friends -- all are healthy.

This is such an amazing, fundamental blessing. It will not last. How could it?

I have a profession I love. Partner is loving his job. Kids are doing well this year, as they learn and negotiate exactly who they are.

The soap bubble floats upward. It grows thinner. But maybe this will be the year when it stays a bubble, when it doesn't find some other home somewhere else. Instead, it floats away. Beautiful, perfect, whole.

Delicate, fragile. This ornament is glass, but compared to the soap bubble, it is hardy. I blink, and it's still there, sparkling under the Christmas tree lights.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CMFTMs -- Groundhog Day, Christmas Edition

Genre: “Groundhog Day, Christmas Edition”
Movies: The 12 Dates of Christmas, Christmas Eve Every Day, The Twelve Days of Christmas Eve, Christmas Do-Over, A Christmas Wedding Date, Three Days … and probably more I don’t know about.

I love the actual “Groundhog Day” movie with Bill Murray. LOVE IT. Watch it every year, on Groundhog Day, and find yet another spiritual paradigm or lesson in it. Is it Buddhist? Christian? I can make an argument in many different directions (ultimate argument: it’s Unitarian Universalist). But I digress.

So, if Groundhog Day is so great, these movies must be terrific, right?

Eh, not so much.

The one I do kinda like, is, I suspect, because I am now a parent. “Christmas Every Day,” in which an ungrateful teenager relives the same day over and over until he GETS IT and starts acting like a wonderful human. But there, that’s probably more about me, less about the movie. See: Mean Mom.

There are so MANY of these! And they’re all the same formula. Protagonist has a sucky day. They wake up the next day, go about their business, at a certain point realizing they’re living the same day. Egad! Gadzooks!

Several days pass of fighting, denial, angst …

Finally, they realize what’s happening. They try to change it. They try to embrace it. Somehow, they eventually find the right Christmas Zen and life stops repeating.

After watching several of these, at a certain point, you, too, will realize …

ERMAGAHRRRRD! I am living my own hellish version of Groundhog-Christmas Day, except I don’t get to eat anything I want with no weight consequences and I don’t get any more time, and it’s almost Christmas and I have wasted all these hours just watching the same show over and over and over!!!

There’s really no good ending to that one. If you must, pick one.

Better yet, wait til Feb. 2 and watch the Real Thing. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

CMFTMs 2: "I Want to Schtup Santa Claus."

You are not coming to a CMFTM for originality, or if you are, you'll be pretty disappointed. They're making these babies on the fly, baby, Time is Money, so who has time for originality? As such, most CMFTMs fall into certain oft-used-and-abused genres. Someone even made a handy bingo scorecard of Christmas movie tropes.

Today's genre is "I Want to Schtup Santa Claus."

This is an interesting genre of holiday movies that seems targeted to Gen X – Boomer females. Why does this appeal to us? I conjecture it’s because of the stop action animation special, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in which a scarily thin Jessica-the-Teacher meets Kris Kringle, he gives her a doll, they get married by the Winter Miser and then she’s allowed to get nice and fat, and he still sits next to her, seemingly still in love, and eternally celebrating Christmas, but without bills or family members, or any of those other pesky things that make Christmas, let’s face it, a bit of a drag. It is a blissful scenario, I must admit.

So, in this genre, Santa Claus is unmarried, young or youngish, and looking for Mrs. Right Claus. He's never the fat, old Santa that we remember, because, ew, that would be creepy. No, slim him down, take off the beard, and all's fine at the North Pole.

(Oh, except they're not set at the North Pole, because Santa has to go out into the world to find Mrs. Claus.)

Spoiler Alert: Santa Gets the Girl. And then there's a sequel. 

Example 1: Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus, starring Steve Guttenberg and Crystal Bernard. Santa is retiring, and his son (the Single Santa) must get married or ... or ... well, something about how then there wouldn't be the Santa magic. I was a little unclear on that. He and "Beth" have the meet-cute, there's some electricity, some messages about morality in toys, true love ... and the all important subtextual message: Women work because they have to, and what they really want is someone to sweep them off to the North Pole where they can concentrate on being wife and Mom. 

I actually don't mean that in a snarky way. (This time.) I chose it at one time in my life, and I'm grateful I had the opportunity. (Concentrating on being a mother, not going to the North Pole.) There's a lot of women in jobs to pay the bills for whom this is a big part of the fantasy. No more clocking in. Bliss. 

The disturbing part is that this message seems to come up again and again and again. So much so that I'll make a tag for it: SAHM Fantasy. A woman have a job she loves? A calling in life? Pfft.

Is this movie worth it? Eh, maybe. It has some cute moments. It also has some excruciatingly bad moments, such as Steve Guttenberg trying to make "Ho Ho Ho" sound like a genuine laugh, or his frantic distress when it seems he'll lose Beth. That's just painful for everyone, and not because of the storyline. 

Whereas Single Santa is bright, loud, and full of scenery-chewing, Snow is quieter and more muted. It stars Tom Cavanaugh and Ashley Williams, with some charming side storylines; one of these includes the always wonderful Jackie Burroughs, may she rest in peace.

The female protagonist/romantic interest, Sandy, is a more nuanced character than Beth in the aforementioned movie. She's smart, she's strong, she gives Nick a serious ass-chewing for crossing  boundaries and rooting through her stuff. An extra half a point for having a couple of non-white characters. Not many. But at least it isn't snow white, the way most of these are, pun intended. And in the end, when the inevitable happens, Sandy isn't using Santa to escape an unhappy life. She has a good life. She doesn't want to leave it. And there's no coercion/guilt involved, (see: Santa Clause 2, Single Santa) no threats that if she doesn't say yes, Christmas Will Die. She says No, Nick is sad, but accepts her right to decide her own fate.

In the end, love wills out. Which I'm okay with, because yeah, love does mean making choices, whether you're marrying Santa or the person who gets a fabulous dream job, requiring you to leave yours.

If you're going to watch one, pick Snow.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

CMFTMs (Christmas Made for TV Movies): Intro

It’s all the fault of A Christmas Memory. That was a wonderful adaptation of a short story by Truman Capote made for ABC Stage 67 before I was born. Every few years or so, they’d show it again on television. It was both magical and homely. It starred Geraldine Page, and the narration was done by Truman Capote himself. His voice was so high-pitched that they had to slow down his recordings in order to lower his voice. Such a beautiful, poignant, real, story, with Buddy and his elderly cousin Sook, and her marvelous fruitcakes, augmented during prohibition by the booze sold by Mr. HaHa Jones, and sent off to friends far and near, and even the president.

It was enough to make you want fruitcake.

This holiday touch of magic evidently imprinted itself upon me at a crucial age, like when you walk away from a duckling, and the baby duck decides it will follow you for life, no matter how clich├ęd, insipid, or commercial you are.

So, over the years, I've watched an awful lot of Made for TV Christmas Movies (MFTCMs). I've also watched an awful lot of awful MFTCMs.

What I've discovered is that they give us some alarming insight into what Hollywood thinks about women. Is it actually Hollywood, though? I think most of these must be made in some low-budget area   somewhere else. The big difference between theatre holiday movies and tv holiday movies are the budgets. TV movies are usually filmed in California, so they boast sunshiny Christmas days while theatre movies can spring for location shoots or better special effects, so they always happen someplace snowy. Also, theatre movies have actors like Jim Carrey or Kate Winslet, while tv movies feature “Oh, oh, I know this person … um … um … oh yeah, they were on Family Ties/Clueless/Beverly Hills 90210/are Fred Willard.”

Men apparently hate Christmas, as it is rare nowadays to find a Christmas Made For TV Movie (CMFTM) that is not explicitly targeted to women. Or children. Or a combination thereof. Or ... maybe the producers are conflating the two? 

Really, after watching so many of these CMFTMs, it seems that's a valid argument, that the producers think women are just like kids, only with more spending money. And shallower. And meaner.

But I'll talk about that in a later post.