Now that 2009 is over, I can reveal how I spent some of my Christmas vacation; butt in easy chair, staring at the new widescreen TV, watching Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life", and crying at the end. Same way I end every year of my life.
It's true, I cry when I watch "It's a Wonderful Life"… and "Shenandoah", and "The Shop Around The Corner" and "You Can't Take It With You". I don't cry when I watch "Harvey", not because it's not sad at times, but, because you have to suspend reality when watching it. For crying out loud, it's a grown man talking to a rabbit. How sad can that be, unless, well, you're a grown man that talks to rabbits. Then I don't mean to offend. Cry away.
I've been a Nancy girl and whimpering crybaby since about 1973, when I was about 14 years old. "It's a Wonderful Life" was on broadcast TV, we didn't have cable at the time, (I didn't even know what cable was). We had an antenna on our roof and we could tune in channels 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11. A couple of years later we got channel 13.
I found that I had tear ducts the minute Uncle Billy lost that eight grand to mean old Mr. Potter, and, like the Grand Coulee Dam, those tear ducts were connected to spillways. Tears are not the thing at age 14 that you want to show in public, especially in front of your family. I held it together when George Bailey came home after searching frantically, even retracing Uncle Billy's steps, trying to find the missing money. When George grabs his kid when he first returns home and then starts shaking as he holds him close, I thought I had total control of my emotions. At the end of the movie, when we find that George is the richest man in Bedford Falls, well, I was glad that my parents kept the room dark. I would sit in the darkness, tears welling up inside, trying to hold them back, faking a cold to hide my whimpering. "Atta a boy Clarence." I had found my girlie side.
During future screenings, just before George arrived back home for the final scene, I would get up and leave the room, but not entirely. I may be the only person who used to watch the last scene of the movie, every year, sulking behind the doorway of the living room. Never let them see you with emotions. It's worked so far.
Then I discovered "Shenandoah". Thanks Jimmy. Spends the whole movie looking for "Boy", then, finally give up as tragedy meets him at every turn. Again, last scene, at the church, family singing the hymn. There's Daniel, hiding around the corner, watching as "Boy" comes hobbling in to meet with his family. Sorry, did I just spoil the movie for you? Hasn't stopped me from crying like a little Nancy boy every time I see it, and that is a few dozen times. I'm so into these movies that I own the DVD's.
It does seem that it's gotten worse since I had children. When your kid is born and the doctor turns to the nurse and says, "I like to see tears from the Dad", it's the first time in my life that I remember crying in a public forum, except for the few times when I've taken a hit to the private parts, where crying, any guy will tell you, is justified.
I'm prone to a little depression during the holidays. Not because it's the only time of the year that that my personal debt clock seems to pass the National Debt Clock, well, maybe a little bit of that. I think it's because Christmas should be more like "It's a Wonderful Life". Finding out that being rich has nothing to do with money.
But when it comes to the holidays, and for that matter, any time you start to feel like your presence in this world means nothing, put "It's a Wonderful Life" into the DVD player, turn it up loud, and, through George Bailey, find out how important you are to family, and friends.
"Merry Christmas you old building and loan."