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Rudolph

December 3, 2007

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I am entirely unashamed to tell you that this movie makes me cry like a baby. There are not a lot of movies that have that effect on me, and I’m wondering tonight what power this film holds over me.

As a little girl, I waited impatiently every year for Christmas to arrive, my stomach full of iced butter cookies — my all time favorite sweet to this day, although I’ve never found any baker anywhere that could make them with the same finesse as my mother. They were a little bit of utopia, those cookies. She’d found the magic formula of butter, sugar and flour and every year, she made dozens of them, all delicious, all perfectly baked and frosted. She’d hide them away in the metal fruitcake tins with the Christmas cowboy theme that my uncle from California would send us. No one but my father could stand the fruitcake and we were more than happy to see them so delectably re-purposed. Being that we lived in Ohio, the garage was a second freezer in the wintertime, and she’d stack up the tins in there, bringing them in one by one as guests or family came by. Anything was an excuse to brew a pot of Constant Comment tea and open up those tins, and oh was I glad to have an excuse. I would scavenge every cookie I could get until she’d close up the tin in embarassment or a full-blown scolding if it was only family. I didn’t care. I only had one chance a year to get my high off of them, and shame was simply not going to stop me.

Every now and then, I buy myself an iced sugar cookie. It’s never right. The icing is hard. Or the cookie is too thick, or not enough butter, too much sugar, or vice versa. The closest I can get is when I make them myself, but I avoid that as I know it’s guaranteed weight gain, and I’m a lot more careful about my arteries than I used to be. But I do long for them and sometimes I give in at Christmas and make a small batch.

But back to Rudolph.

I watched a bit of ‘Polar Express’ the other night, which is the 21st century answer to the questions of Christmas. I was impressed with the pixel pyrotechnics… but it’s not Rudolph. Too much made sense, too much left any room for the leap of faith that a little movie like Rudolph requires. And I found myself wondering what children are missing by having so many of the blanks filled in like that. Rudolph requires that we suspend our rationale for an hour or so and allow ourselves to believe… and something essential to the meaning of Christmas is to be found in that, I think.

And maybe that’s why I cry, every time. When Rudolph is chosen, when the misfit toys are picked up at last, and Rudolph glides off into the moonlight with jolly ol’ Santa wishing a Merry Christmas to all… I can feel what it felt like once to believe — that dreams do come true, that rights are wronged, that the lost are found and that reindeers can fly. I think I cry because I feel how much I want to believe, still, and how hard it is sometimes to do so… to believe that the sun shining is enough, that one footstep will follow the other, and that today will not bring anything I cannot handle.

I think I cry because Rudolph gives me hope and that opens up the floodgate of my tears. Perhaps I’m hoping more than I realize, most of the time.

* * *

This can be a hard time of year for me. My large and very dysfunctional family remains in a few estranged and broken clusters of people who share the same DNA but haven’t spoken in years. Sans the brother who died last spring. His death did nothing to make us better. I don’t know what it would take, but it would have to be something monumental. Because not even death seems to shift things. We are a sad and tragic group, and as I said, this is a hard time of year for me.

Watching Rudolph brings up the hard memories, but the good ones too. Christmas was a magical, wonderous time in our house and I can enjoy those memories in spite of ugly things.

Watching Rudolph reminds me to Have Myself A Merry Little Christmas, in spite of it all. And so I do. We put up our little Christmas tree with the tiny little decorations that I love so. And a little light of hope is lit in my heart for a while.

My husband hates Christmas, much more than I. It’s only in keeping our Christmases small and very real that he’s been able to enjoy them with me. A little Rudolph never hurts either.

I’ve resolved one thing this year though: I will never say ‘Happy Holidays’ again. It makes me angry that I’m supposed to suppress my Christian background simply to make someone else feel better. Does any other religion have a term like ‘Happy Holidays’? Hell no, they don’t, and I’m really done doing what other people tell me what I have to do/say to make others feel better at this time of year. And yeah, I know, the red-green, Christian-dominated theme is everywhere at this time of year… but why shouldn’t it be? This is our heritage, this is what a large percentage of Americans come from and I’ll be damned if I’m going to suppress that for anyone. It’s no less wonderful than Hannukah, Kwanza, etc., and just because it’s in the majority (albeit a thinner and thinner majority), doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it.  And yeah, it’s everywhere and it’s annoying at this time of year… but that’s the commercialization of Christmas and it annoys us Christians or those descended from a Christian background, as much as anyone else. So… Merry Fucking Christmas, whether you like it or not! Ha!

* * *

The last lesson with Opera Man went very well. I’ll start again with La Dolce in January. She told me to take a break for a few weeks. I’m impatient to start again. My heart sank when OM confirmed that they are leaving for the East Coast sometime in May. They’re from there originally, their stint out here was short-term only. They have a house to get back to, and something tells me they have babymaking on their minds as well. Alas, I only have them for a short while longer and I fear replacing them will not be easy. So I will have to make these last months really count… and I guess I just have to believe, huh?

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