As I think about what is making me happy, I find myself imposing rules on my new blogging tradition. For example, because it is Christmas time I could easily compose a post about my friends, family, getting together, baking cookies, etc. However, they are not something you, as a reader, have access to. (Sorry, you can’t have my mom or her Christmas dinner). So, instead I need to write about something in pop culture & Christmas that is making me happy—perhaps I should post the official rules sometime...
For me, Christmas and the winter holidays are some of the best times to watch television. Christmas movies are always on and can be DVR’d and watched at my leisure. As an individual that lives in a VCR-less household, this means I consume the old favorites like White Christmas and Holiday Inn as well as the cookie cutter plots of Hallmark and Lifetime movies. However, my absolute favorites are holiday specials/themed episodes of my favorite prime time television shows.
So…drumroll…the most recent episode of Parenthood from December 11th is making me happy. The episode is titled “What to My Wondering Eyes” (and it is available to be streamed here). For those of you who don’t watch the show regularly, I will provide a brief synopsis (although NBC does a fine job hooking you on-line). The plot focuses on the Braverman family—the parents played by Bonnie Bedelia and Craig T. Nelson and their 4 adult children and their respective spouses and children. You see the families gathering for dinners, taking their children to school, struggling with the challenges we all face in life, and then coming together as the larger Braverman clan. It is not critically acclaimed in the way that The Wire or Breaking Bad is, but it reinforces that family and community is so crucial to a fulfilling life—in the same way that a show like Gilmore Girls did.
Anyway, back to the Christmas episode that is making me happy and for me, embodies the Christmas spirit. My favorite character, Christina, has been undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and in the most recent episode ends up in ICU with a life-threatening infection. Needless to say, this is an absolutely heart-wrenching episode. A friend of mine created a subtitle for the episode, “Weep, America, Weep.” Christmas Eve becomes the turning point in which we see if Christina lives or dies and the whole family struggles with her health status. Of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of providing a “normal” Christmas for all the young children in the family—a set of actions that are even more poignant in light of recent tragic events. The narrative juxtaposes Christina’s struggle for life, most poignantly illustrated by a video she leaves for her children in case she passes on, with the desire and need to believe in Santa Claus.
The episode embodies what I value in Christmas: family, faith, and a renewed look to the future. It also reminds us that Christmas is not just a time to be charitable to those who may have less than us (although that is admirable and necessary to live in community) but to also keep in our thoughts and prayers those who are struggling over the holiday season because of health or personal tragedy. You don’t need to a lot of money or presents to celebrate the holidays but I do believe Christmas requires peace—peace within yourself, especially. And this year, especially in a small town in Connecticut, finding peace may be nearly impossible.
So perhaps this episode doesn’t necessarily provide joy, but anything that can provide the Christmas spirit that comes without, as the Grinch would say, presents, packages, boxes, or bags, is making me happy this December.
PS A previous version of this post stated that Glen Hansard of Once fame was on the show. My husband kindly pointed out that Glen Hansard made his appearance the week before. I apologize for the confusion and now urge to watch that episode and the one that I waxed on about in this post!