Sunday, December 25, 2011
I'm in the midst of watching It's a Wonderful Life on NBC.
Pretty cliche Christmas Eve activity, I know.
But it's only my second time seeing it. And it doesn't count, since we started watching at 9 p.m., even though it started airing at 8. (We were watching Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol before that.)
I'm usually against coming in halfway through a movie, even if I've seen it before. Movies I've seen lots of times can function as sort of an exception to that rule. With movies I'm seeing only for the second time, however, I need that first half to orient myself again.
I'm making the exception with It's a Wonderful Life, which I only saw once during the 2002 Christmas season, because I'm looking for a good dose of "normal Christmas" tonight. I'm currently in a hotel room in Palm Springs, which is not very "normal," Christmas-wise.
It's actually a pretty special Christmas, because members of both my wife's family and mine are here with us, having traveled from cities in three different countries to be here. My mom and her boyfriend flew here from Boston. My wife's aunt and uncle, cousin, and cousin's family flew here from Toronto. And my wife's sister and mother both came from Australia -- Melbourne and Hobart (Tasmania), respectively.
But the things we've done haven't been very Christmas-oriented. We did see snow today, having ridden the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to its peak. (Which is considerably frostier than the temperatures at the base, which allowed us to actually go swimming in a heated outdoor pool this afternoon.) But as soon as the 14 of us returned to the hotel, having had a great time, we dispersed at about 6 p.m., and didn't see each other again.
See, I'm accustomed to Christmas Eves where people share food and laughs, and probably get a bit tipsy on wine, and you have a warm feeling inside you as you return home to bed, maybe wrapping one last present or two before you close your eyes for the night. Not where you run out to the grocery store at 7:30 to get a pasta dish and garlic bread to make in your hotel room's kitchenette.
But as I was starting to feel a bit down, pondering what was missing from this December 24th, my wife convinced me that this would be one of those Christmases we'd remember and talk about -- where both sides of our families got together and met us in the same hotel where we'd all stayed when my wife and I got married three years ago, just a stone's throw from here. So what if we didn't get the room decorated, or pick up a two-foot-tall tree like we'd talked about. It's a special Christmas where an extended family spread across the globe is now just separated by a couple rooms at an inn.
And so what if I've now typed through most of the second half of It's a Wonderful Life. It has served it's function, which is: to remind me that life is wonderful, when you're surrounded by family who have all traveled great distances to be together. Improbable distances, really. If it doesn't resemble some prototypical past Christmas experience in my mind, that -- precisely -- is the wonderful part.
Merry Christmas, and to all a good night.