This whole return to real life thing is not very wonderful. Thanksgiving week is such a tease, letting you just get comfortable doing whatever your heart desires and then launching you out on the other side with three weeks of high-intensity to-do’s staring you in the face. I vote for the entire December month to be holiday: in my slippers, every-day, all month.
If I did happen to get out of my slippers and get dressed this month, it would be like Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut. She had the best mix of cute and strong, leather and lace, temper and sweetness: Stanwyck plays a journalist who writes articles posing as a housewife on a Connecticut farm. In reality though, she’s a single woman living in a New York apartment who can’t even cook and relies on her Uncle Felix’s restaurant to give her the menus for her articles. When her boss decides to invite himself to her “farm” for Christmas, Stanwyck’s carefully crafted life begins to be reinvented by everyone else and she soon grows very tired of rewriting the truth of her life instead of accepting what she truly wants. It’s such a fun movie and gets you rather excited to reinvent yourself. It’s a perfect Christmas Eve movie: some nostalgia mixed with lots of excitement for a new year and a potential new self.
Post-Thanksgiving marks a crucial time for most people. It’s the changing of the seasons from a sleepy fall into a full-blown, countdown to Christmas. I can feel it in the air. People are either quivering with excitement to release their energy on decking their halls, or are dangling on the precipice between stress and a breakdown over arriving at this time of year again and beginning to realize what needs to be done to”prepare” for the holidays. Or, throw in yet another factor. Perhaps you can’t even imagine spending a moment on Christmas preparations because life has, once again, accelerated at a ridiculous speed come the last month of the year.
I tend to stand on the side of those quivering with excitement to begin this season. So, this past weekend, even though Thanksgiving came early this year, I couldn’t help myself and decided to spend Friday in my sweats with nothing on my to-do list except officially initiating the house with the first of some Christmas cheer:
As I was hanging garland, straightening bows, and distributing some sparkle on Friday, I thought about the two approaches most people have to this time of year: Utter dread and disinterest, or unabashed obsession and excitement.
If you’ve never seen it, the 1947 Christmas classic, The Bishop’s Wife pretty much sums up these dichotomies. The film is about a Bishop (David Niven) who is so distracted by his ambitions for raising money to build a new cathedral, he has made his wife (Loretta Young) completely miserable by his selfishness and drive for the latest, greatest things. He never spends time with her or his daughter anymore, believes her small attempts to bring joy into their house childish and wasteful, and begins to treat everyone in his home as slaves.
Into this disgruntled family, an angel (Cary Grant) enters disguised as a man applying for a secretary job to assist the overworked Bishop. His real intentions become clear though when the angel, or “Dudley,” shows the Bishop’s wife how to be happy again, how to be kind and show love, how to appreciate small things, and how to bring joy back into a home. While the Bishop obsesses about how to impress people so that they will give him money, Dudley seeks out lonely people to cheer with some of the joy of the Christmas season. And, while the Bishop is focused on building a spectacular cathedral, Dudley focuses on rebuilding a home that is crumbling under the burden of supporting the Bishop’s ambitions.
At the conclusion of the film, it’s clear that Dudley’s simple ways have made a far bigger contribution to the Bishop’s parish and family than the Bishop’s overblown attempts at perfection. So, this year, be a Dudley. Even if you don’t have the powers of an angel, you do have the power to make some magic just by keeping it simple.
Don’t let your ambitions for a perfect Christmas run away with you, or, don’t let the fear of not creating the perfect Christmas paralyze you from enjoying a very, very special time.