A few years ago, when my mother, younger brothers and sister-in-law were driving to attend my parents' church's Christmas Eve service, we were doing what we typically do when we're together: telling stories, making fun of each other, and looking at various things on somebody's iPhone.
This year in particular we were watching a hilarious video of an angry and entertaining little boy whose baby brother is happily biting his fingers (a video that gets reprised every year; my sister-in-law's "Charlie bit me" impression is quite impressive). It was a classic. But then my mother started telling us a story about a Hallmark commercial she saw, about a family being together at the holidays. Then it got quiet.
"Mom, are you seriously crying telling us about a commercial?" my younger brother asked.
And all of us (my mother excluded) cracked up laughing. Because it really was funny. I mean, it's one thing to cry while watching a commercial (though some people would say that's hilarious). Crying while recounting what you saw in a commercial is something different altogether.
It turns out that, in this way, as in many others, I am turning into my mother. No, I haven't cried at a commercial yet (though every time I see this Hallmark commercial I feel the tug). But I do cry quite frequently, for less-than-stellar reasons. Case in point: this week's episode of Modern Family; this week's episode of Up All Night; and this week's episode of Parks & Recreation.
Okay, okay -- I know it's preposterous to cry at a sitcom, much less three of them. But hear me out on this. You see, in spite of the obvious humor (which was priceless), what struck me about the Modern Family episode entitled, "Express Christmas" is three-fold: (1) they eventually get beyond their immediate frustrations and end up really enjoying time each other; (2) the Scrooge amongst them is the one who arranges for the fake snow and thereby ends up making it feel like Christmas; and, (3) they end up realizing that trying to make things perfect only ruins the intended effect and that picture-perfect Christmas food or decorations isn't what really matters at Christmas. I love those themes and, therefore, got very emotional when they ran into the fake snow after their hopes were dashed and Gloria said, "Family is family, whether it's the one you start out with, the one you end up with or the family you gain along the way. Which makes every day [Christmas day]."
Of course, Up All Night was equally sentimental. It touched on the old story of the Gift of the Magi -- that is, secret Christmas gifts and sacrificing things that matter to bring happiness to the one you love, only to have that someone sacrifice something central to your gift in order to buy you a gift. I love that story generally and was so touched that Chris and Reagan really wanted to show each other that they appreciate each other's awesomeness.
But it was Parks and Recreation that did me in. The theme of disappointment followed by hope was intense. When Leslie walked into her office and her staff had put together her reelection campaign, I got very, very emotional. The fantastic gift giver was outdone. Because she deserved the perfect gift.
I know it sounds lame, but those themes are what resonate with me this Christmas: enjoying rather than getting irritated with each other; that even the most cynical among us see the value of love and innocence; foregoing perfection in pursuit of happiness; the value of personal sacrifice in pursuit of bringing our loved ones said happiness; and helping each other out of despair and into hope.
So, December Daily #9 = a picture from each episode.