I went light on the Christmas decorations this year. I didn’t hang garland outside. Or lights. No coniferous cornices in the doorways. No lavish candle displays. I didn’t dig out my Christmas Snow Village, either. I even replaced our 7-foot tree with a little 4½-foot pre-lighted tree.
There’s just no room. We had to squish so much stuff in the living room when we turned the den into a gym because of the new Oprah elliptical that there wasn’t enough space left for a large tree.
I also didn’t have the heart for decorating this year. Aside from the many changes in and the busy-ness of my life since October, there were no kids around to help me decorate and that was particularly sad to me. I especially missed the part where my girls and I would tell stories about each of the ornaments we’ve collected over the years.
This year, when I stuck the little 4½- foot tree on a table in front of the living room window, I simply went through the ornament boxes in the basement and picked out my favorites: the ones my girls made when they were little; the only remaining decoration from the Christmas trees when I was growing up (a little yarn angel); a studded green and red ball my great aunt Louisa made; the photo of our late dog Sasha (the best angel to ever top a tree); and my newest ornament – a miniature See ‘n Say.
Remember See ‘n Say? “The cow says: mooooooo.” “This is a horse: neeeeeeigh…” “Do you hear the frog? Ribbbiit…ribbittt.” It came with three tiny batteries and I actually put them in right so it works. It drives my dogs nuts every time I pull the little string. They cock their heads, perk up their ears and wonder where the hell I’m hiding a duck or turkey or pig.
I haven’t watched any of the Christmas cartoons yet, and I probably won’t this year. I think I’ll wait a few years until Claire is older and I’ll watch them with her, sans “Frosty the Snowman.” I hate that cartoon. That little Karen is such a wimp and her boots are way too big for her body.
Give me “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Those are the best.
Ironically, I heard on “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” this week the truth about the little doll on the Island of Misfit Toys. From Wikipedia: “Misfit Doll is an unnamed, but seemingly normal girl rag doll. Her presence on the island is never explained on the special. According to NPR’s ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me’ news quiz show broadcasted December 8, Arthur Rankin, in an interview, revealed that the Misfit Doll was abandoned by her mistress and suffered from depression.” When I was little I wanted Santa to bring me that doll. Now I know why I felt such a connection with her. I wasn’t abandoned as a child, but I know depression. Yet unlike that little doll, who was good and kind when she was depressed, I’m pretty sure I’d have strangled that irritating Charlie-In-The-Box if I were stuck on that island with him in my more depressed times.
I also learned on “Wait, Wait…” that the actual Rudolph puppet used for the cartoon was recently acquired by a toy restorer from a former employee of Rankin/Bass (creators of the cartoon) who used Rudolph as a candy dish. (Read the complete story here.)
But enough about Rudolph. My favorite Christmas cartoon is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” (The Internet Movie Database site has some good info on the cartoon here.) Every year when I was little and we’d go pick out a tree, I’d want the rattiest tree on the lot. “But Daddy,” I’d say. “No one will love that tree!” I took to heart what Linus said about Charlie Brown’s choice of tree for the school play: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”
I always felt responsible for the lost, the lonely, the out-of-place. I still do. It’s why I limit my media intake. I feel overwhelmingly remorseful and guilty when I watch too much news or too many sad movies or television dramas. Christmas enhances my feelings of responsibility for things I’m not responsible for.
Sharing Rudolph and Charlie Brown with Claire will help me remember the happy sides of both cartoons. We still won’t watch Frosty, though.
Wait! We’ll add “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to our agenda. I forgot about that one. I still cry when the Grinch whips his little dog. Claire and I will hide our eyes during that part.
OK, I’ve played with the mini See ‘n Say long enough. The dogs aren’t amused anymore. It’s time to hang it back on the tree. I think I’ll shut off the computer and just admire the sparkling lights for awhile. The tree is small but pretty. It’s enough decoration to make the house feel like Christmas.
I want to leave you with the best scene from the Charlie Brown cartoon. Linus rocks.
Charlie Brown: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about.
[shouting in desperation]
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
[moves toward the center of the stage]
Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus]
Linus Van Pelt: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’"
[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]
Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.