Posted by: deadmousediaries | January 11, 2014

Sleep in Heaven, Eat Peas

We are in the midst of a wonderful season. Wouldn’t that be great, if it were wonder-full the way we remember it? It seems to me that we have been working very diligently to squeeze all the wonder and the magic out of the holidays. Not everything needs an explanation.

I start watching my Christmas movies in November and even though I’ve added new ones to my favorites like the original Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life, I never choose to watch those new behind-the-scenes commentaries or making of segments that come with my DVDs. I don’t want to know how a film director made reindeer fly. That’s Santa’s job.

Decades ago, my grandfather toured a film studio and saw some of the sets that were used in the making of westerns. Even at 70-plus, his enjoyment of his TV favorites like Gunsmoke, Wagon Train and Bonanza faded after he had been given the “privilege” of that behind-the-scenes look. I remember him describing how those huge, roiling rivers that kept us riveted as we watched the good guys struggle to cross them were nothing but little gullies of water on a film set. I knew then the magic was gone for him. As we sat watching after that, our heroes seemed less heroic and their perils not so perilous. Their good deeds and their stories had been diminished by too much reality.

When our kids were four and six, we did a December day in New York City. The thing our son remembers best is how weird it was he couldn’t see the sky. I’m not sure what our daughter remembers best but I still have film running in my brain of her reaction to the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. Before the curtain had even opened, she bounced to the edge of her dad’s knees and sat perched there from the moment the giant dancing teddy bears appeared in the wings. Her little jaw dropped and she never recovered; she sat entranced through the Rockettes as tin soldiers and past the performers who magically ice skated on that grand old stage. She was transfixed from the moment the first music note sounded until the final curtain call. None of us wanted to know about cables and pulleys and snow-making machines on that day. It was the wow that had mesmerized the whole lot of us, not the how,

In mid-November I had tickets for a fabulous holiday music event where the performer told us all – once again- that it would have been impossible for the three kings of the Orient to have been present at the Nativity because it would have taken them a year to travel there. So what! Who among us hasn’t hit heavy traffic, been given bad directions or made a wrong turn somewhere that made us late for a baby shower?

At Thanksgiving, I was cruising the web for broadcast plans for that great holiday tradition, the Macy’s Parade. The first items that came up in the search were about the political controversy that was bubbling up over some of the floats. Animal rights activists were upset that SeaWorld planned to feature whales on their float because they charged that the facility didn’t treat their orcas well. Rocker Joan Jett was moved from her assigned position in the parade because the sponsors of her original float, the South Dakota tourism department, were responding to pressure from ranchers who declared that her presence sent a bad message about their meat-producing state; she’s a vegetarian.

I didn’t need to know any of that and I certainly didn’t care. I also didn’t see anybody anywhere in the parade line-up or in the crowd noting that Joan was proactively not gnawing on a rack of ribs as she passed by.

It’s hard to believe that 115 Christmases have passed since a man whose name few of us recognize penned a very famous letter that has become a hallmark for Christmas magic. That writer was Francis Pharcellus Church and he was an editor at the New York Sun when he responded to an eight-year-old girl in 1897 with his famous lines: Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. If you haven’t read that beautiful and inspired response to a child’s simple question, this might be the year to return to it.

If there is some luster missing from our holiday trimmings, maybe it isn’t that we need new ornaments, Maybe we all need to remember that less is more when the real gifts of the season are involved. There is no need to analyze or correct it if you or your kids aren’t getting all the inside scoop. Who’s to say Christmas doesn’t include Olive, the other reindeer, or Harold, the angel?

My holiday wish for all of us is that we can all slow down and simply wonder our way through the season once again. Let’s invite more wow and decline the how. Allow for more questions than answers and stop explaining the instant your kids stop listening; they are smarter than we are when we it comes to preserving the magic. Be merry and full of bliss this Christmas season. And if a child tells you that her favorite Christmas carol says she has to eat her vegetables, simply smile and believe her. Sleep in heaven, eat peas.

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