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Where Christmas Is Always White

by Liz Flaherty

Christmas is coming, sometime, and I'll start watching the movies any day now. You know the ones I mean: It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th St., Bells of St. Mary's- just to name a few. I sing with Bing Crosby--though most everyone around wishes I wouldn't-and rejoice right along with Jimmy Stewart when he finds Zuzu's petals in his pocket. I'm firmly convinced that the man who played Santa Claus in the original 34th St. movie really was him and if Ingrid Bergman wasn't a nun, it's because she missed her calling.

There are, however, things about these movies that bother me. Did you ever notice that Christmas is always white, the whole family makes it home, and no one actually has to cook the gargantuan meal that appears on the table? Everyone stands around the piano and sings Christmas carols. In tune. The women come downstairs in the morning with their hair combed and their makeup on. They obviously have not stayed up until three AM fitting part B into slot C. The kids are thrilled with all their gifts and never greet guests with the immortal words, "What did you bring me?"

Well, I don't know about you, but my family and our traditions don't measure up to the movies.

Fact: When children grow up, they don't always make it home for the holidays. They are too far away, too broke, or otherwise committed. When they marry, they have spouses to consider as well as those spouses' families. When they have children of their own, they sometimes want to--gasp!--stay home on the holidays.

Fact: Christmas isn't always white. Sometimes it's gray and muddy.

Fact: It takes a lot of time and work to prepare a holiday meal that is up to movie standards. I gave up on it when I discovered supermarket pumpkin pies were every bit as good as mine and the crusts were better.

Fact: We don't have a piano, and the only song the whole family knows all the words to is Rhinestone Cowboy. Actually, since our family has expanded over recent years, there aren't any songs we all know the words to.

Fact: I'm not ready to discuss what I look like on any morning, much less one after I've stayed up late. Let it suffice to say Donna Reed and Ingrid Bergman would have nothing to fear from me.

Fact: None of the kids in our family would make it in the movies.

So there it is. My family's holidays are never going to live up to the movies' portrayals. We burn the food sometimes, make God-awful gift choices, and lose track of the spirit of the days we are celebrating. We sing out of tune, dance out of step, and forget our lines.

While our scenes probably wouldn't translate well to the screen, they play just fine at our house. Because it doesn't matter at all whether we're in tune as long as we're singing. Whether we're in step as long as our hearts are in the dance. Whether we remember our lines as long as we're talking.

I hope you all have a splendid holiday season, and if anyone needs the words to Rhinestone Cowboy, give me a holler.

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