Let’s be real here…You don’t raise five kids, especially five DAUGHTERS, without a ton of their influence rubbing off on you. But, the fact is, the best traditions are those that grow from the love of family, a sense of gratitude, and an annual chance at redemption.
Ah…so yes…this is already starting to sound like Marge’s story in this really wonderful Christmas event. But, of course for anyone who is paying close attention, and has a modicum of Pop Culture knowledge, you will realize that it is really a parody of the surprisingly warmhearted and sweet, “The Family Man” starring Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni, and Don Cheadle. This is one of Cage’s best roles, unless you’d rather see him drink himself to death in “Leaving Las Vegas.” Even though I have had a “thing” for Elizabeth Shue since “the Karate Kid”, and she is super hot in “Leaving Las Vegss,” when it comes to Christmas movies, I have to go with Cage and Leoni in “The Family Man.” She is sooooo cute in this movie….but I digress.
Getting back to Christmas traditions, “The Family Man” is one of the movies that we watch every year…which is a growing list, that now requires a spread sheet to cover adequately. I’m not kidding. But, more on that later.
So, I was very pleased to see Marge playing the role of “Jack” and then maybe even “Scrooge” in her TSTO Chapter, “Paramours of Christmas Past.”
The storyline is the same…mostly. According to IMDB, the plot for “the Family Man” is, “A fast-lane investment broker, offered the opportunity to see how the other half lives, wakes up to find that his sports car and girlfriend have become a mini-van and wife.” That really isn’t a great description of the journey that “Jack” takes to realize what he gave up by pursuing a path to “Having It ALL!” In fact, it should be, “a high power investment weasel has a chance to make the right decision to find true happiness and love.” But, Marge says it better.
The Dialogue in this act is actually a better description. Here are some excerpts.
Ned: Marge, my beautiful fiancée! Ready to jet off to the Bahamas for a snowless, un-Christmas-y holiday?
Homer: Whoa, whoa, whoa. You’re marrying Flanders in this story?!
Marge: The heroine ALWAYS starts out engaged to the wrong man. Respect the formula! …..Oh, how I hate Christmas, ever since I hardened my heart and took a high-powered job of some kind in the city. But I must return to my hometown to help my mother run the family Christmas tree farm for the next few weeks.
Ned: Won’t you be miserable, surrounded by all that snow and Christmas cheer?
Marge: Don’t worry. I’m sure I won’t rediscover the magic of Christmas. Or fall back in love with the man I was always meant to be with.
Ned:Uh, who said anything about another man?
So…the stage is set for Marge to figure out that she was always intended for a more simple, happier life, with Homer.
But not before she struggles with her “inner Marge” to justify her previous choices.
Marge: Mom, how could you hire my ex-fiancé to work at our family business?
Mrs. Bouvier: Well, I wouldn’t have had to if YOU still held Christmas in your heart. But noooooo!
Marge: I discovered a better world. A world of business, and misplaced priorities, and boyfriends who don’t understand the real me!
Mrs. Bouvier: What do you even do? You’ve never bothered to tell me!
Marge: Isn’t it enough to know that it stresses me out, and I think that makes me happy, but it’s actually killing me inside?!
And the story continues…with Marge trying to fight off her urges to embrace the Christmas Spirit and end up with her “intended true love,” Homer. But, not until the writers go a tad off the rails and mix, “A Christmas Carol” into the storyline, with a visit from “the Ghost from Christmas Past.”
I know this should bother me. But it doesn’t. The fact is, it is a perfect mix-mash of a couple of our favorite movies that have become tradition here
And coincidentally, Ali, our “high power fashion executive” daughter who works for GAP Inc. in San Francisco, is home right now for the holidays with her “true love,” husband Ryan. And, she is the MOST driven to make sure that every holiday tradition is followed...to the letter.
I wasn’t kidding about the spreadsheet. So determined is she to show Ryan a “Traditional Miller Christmas,” that she literally made a spreadsheet of activities, meals, and movies that we are going to see, do, and experience over the 6 days they are here. And, as the Jacob Marley says to Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” “It is a ponderous list…”
I kid you not, she has no fewer than 9 “must see” movies, several albums to listen to, and an almost endless list of “places to go, places to eat, and things to do.” We are just along for Ali’s ride. Maddy and Josh are in the mix starting tonight…hold on.
But, today is “Caramel Corn” day. It’s the day when I dedicate 16 hours to making 40 batches of Caramel Corn (Uncle Patty’s Korn) for friends and family. Tomorrow is the annual “Miller gift exchange,” where we exchange small gifts with extended family (most of whom are my progeny!), and then the countdown to Christmas begins!
And then…a couple of days after Christmas, Deb and I hop on a plane and head to New Jersey/New York, to do it all over again with a delayed Christmas and New Year’s celebration with Katie, her Ryan, his boys, and new our little angel, Jake!
I’ll turn 65 on New Years…and will celebrate away from home, for the first time in 65 years. Because family comes first. We’ll find a way to watch football, and eat my favorite meal of home-made hamburgers and Deb’s potato salad.
It is all part of the season of “redemption.” Because each year, as I am surrounded by my amazing family, 5 daughters, and 7 grandkids, I too am thankful that I took the course that “Jack” did, or does eventually…
Early in my career, after winning an Emmy for the Claymation Christmas Celebration, I could have moved to Hollywood, and most of what we have today would not have existed. I’m smart enough to know that. I was also smart enough to realize that I hated SoCal, because nothing about Hollywood or Southern California felt like a place where traditional family life could thrive. I was raised with simple traditions, and nothing in Hollywood is simple…or for that matter, real. (my apologies to everyone who lives there…and is still chasing the dream).
Can you “have it all?” Maybe. But I think it is a very rare thing to balance family and fortune. Hopefully, you end up knowing that the relationships you have with your kids and grandkids are immeasurably more valuable.
But, maybe I’m just trying to justify why I made those choices, and still feel like I have so much to give back to a world that has blessed me with incalculable gifts in this life.
It’s no wonder that so many of the movies we love, and will watch this Christmas season are stories of redemption, and people realizing their true selves.
Here’s Ali’s “Must See” list… in order of how we will watch them…including the last two on Christmas Eve.
1. A Christmas Story (We watched it last night…Ralphie Didn’t Shoot his eye out”
2. Claymation Christmas Celebration (Ryan had never seen it…it’s short…last night).
3. Miracle on 34th St (It is a CLASSIC…and Ryan still works for Macy’s)
4. A Family Man (for all of the reason above)
5. Home Alone (even more fun since we visit NYC regularly now)
6. The Santa Clause (Tim Allen’s best role ever)
7. Bad Santa (because you have to offset Tim Allen with Billy Bob Thorton..and the fat kid is a perfect replacement for Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life…for a hapless lunk, who converts a Scrooge to a giver)
8. It’s A Wonderful Life (The original…with Jimmy Stewart and the gorgeous Donna Reed)
9. The George C Scott version of “A Christmas Carol” (The absolute best version ever…period…hands down…no arguments please).
If we have time…Mr Magoo’s Christmas.
On Christmas Day, We are planning to see “Mary Poppins.”
The BEST of the BEST of this list are movies about redemption. Men and women who figure out what is really best about this life… With the exception of “Ralphie” in Home Alone, (who gets a pass for being so cute), they all are stories of people who find the real joy in life, by getting a taste of what life would be without family, friends and tradition.
Yes. It is insanely busy. Yes…my feet and back are going to ache tonight after making the Caramel Corn. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Christmas is a time for family…and giving thanks for what we have…not what we think we want to be happy.
So, be happy. Count your blessings. Put down your padular devices. Enjoy the season…no matter how. or if you worship, GIVE THANKS!
This truly is “A Wonderful Life!”
***PS…on a more personal and somber note… I have a favor to ask all of you who believe in the power of prayer or positive intention…
A dear friend of mine has just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of abdominal cancer, and has already started chemo. Please pray that the tumor goes away. She is the kind of person this world needs. Creative, wonderful, and talented. Let’s pray for a Christmas miracle. Thanks!