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“A Wonderful Life”

I always had favorite Christmas movies that I watched every year and in the “before time,” I would have already watched as many of them as I could.  Some of them included animated movies about “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and The Island of Misfit Toys.”  Even as an adult, it always made me sad when Frosty melted.

It took a while before I decided to give a few of them a try, such as “Elf” and “The Polar Express” and “Bad Santa.”  I never was able to watch “National Lampoons’ Christmas Vacation.”

When my youngest daughter was a wee one, she always asked “Santa” to leave her a bell from his sleigh.  She was already grown the first time I watched The Polar Express and I thought it was so interesting that the little boy ended up with a bell.  I mentioned it to her and she said “where do you think I got the idea?”  She had never seen the movie but had read the book.

She always got her bell even after she was grown and I made sure never to duplicate one.  I started a tradition with her son and he has received a bell from “Santa” every year since he was born.

After I left Loser, if I was feeling particularly blue, I would watch Elf.  It really didn’t matter what time of year it was. It just made me feel a little better.  I don’t watch it anymore.

My all time favorite Christmas movie was, hands down, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  It used to annoy me that they would show “A Christmas Story” for twenty-four hours straight and show all the other holiday movies almost every night, but not my movie.  It was never shown but once and that was usually on Christmas Eve.  I eventually bought the movie so that I could watch it anytime I wanted.

I usually watched it alone.  For some strange reason, my middle daughter could not stand Jimmy Stewarts’ voice.  (It may have been one of those Mary Hart things.)  Loser wouldn’t watch it with me because he had met Jimmy Stewart and said that he was an “asshole,” not to mention that the movie represented everything about a man that he was not.

It was on last night but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. It brings back too many memories.

I wonder if my middle daughter will think about me when it’s shown where she lives.  In the past, if she noticed that it was going to be on, she made sure to call me and tell me what day and time because she knew that like Christmas, it was something I looked forward to with childlike excitement.

I loved the premise that everybody (with the exception of Mr. Potter) was a good person.  I dreamed of living in a similar quaint little town, where everybody knew everybody and nobody ever seemed to be in a bad mood, even when disappointment knocked on their door.  None of them had money but they had what we all long for…love, friendship, loyalty and honor.

Mr. Bailey could instruct his son Harry, to have “no gin tonight,” and not have to worry that later, he would find him passed out in some alley or get a call from the local jail.  George sacrificed his dreams so that Harry could have an education and chase his own dreams.  Never once did George feel “double-crossed” when his chance never came.

Mary looks at the old Granville house and sees happiness and joy and it reminds me of the way I used to look at old abandoned houses.  I could see the beauty that was once there.

I was a visionary when it came to that kind of thing.  I could see beyond broken staircases, shattered windows and crumbling walls. I had ripped down and put up wallpaper.  I had ripped up and put down floors.  I had torn down and put up walls.

My effort went mostly unnoticed and is now forgotten, but I always felt like I had brought something back to life.

George and Mary adored their children and they adored each other.  They were kind people who never wavered in their affection for each other or their tight-knit community.

The sympathetic support characters, Martini, Mr. Gower, Burt, Ernie, Uncle Billy, Mrs. Bailey and Nick, all serve to round out a “wonderful life,” but Clarence is the one who emerged as my hero.

Uncomplicated and innocent, his goal was to earn his wings.  I believed in Angels then and it was perfectly reasonable to me that it would take a very difficult, important task to win them.  I used to wish that Clarence was my own guardian angel.

I knew it was all make-believe, born as a book from the mind of Phillip Van Doren Stern, and then brought to the big screen by Frank Capra, but back then I still had silly dreams.

All the major characters in that beloved movie are dead and now live only in memories.  Like the characters, life-long traditions and revelry for me are dead and live only in my memories.

I keep my memories tucked away in a safe place and this time of year when I revisit them, I remember my dreams but circumstances changed and my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

I always thought it was going to be “a wonderful life.”








30 thoughts on ““A Wonderful Life”

  1. I have goods years & bad years with IaWL. This year I’m returning to the semi-tradition of seeing it on a big screen. If the movie starts depressing me, I obsessing on picking out new background details which can’t be seen on a TV.

    Then, next week, I’m hoping to make it in time to see Bringing Up Baby in a movie theater. I don’t recall anything about that occurring at the holidays but I love that movie. Then it’s My Man Godfrey for New Year’s Eve-Eve. I can’t find a theater showing Holiday or Bishop’s Wife.


  2. I like It’s a Wonderful Life and Elf! It’s still not too late to have a good life, Laurel! My life definitely didn’t go as planned but I still have hope. I’m trying best to make it wonderful.


  3. Laurel, that is such a bummer. I too have struggled with some of the same things, but recently I have force myself to watch some of those movies that I shared with the KOOK that I also liked before I knew her. At first it was a bit tough, but I have once again been able to enjoy them without her. I wish you could do that too.


    • I’ve thought about “biting the bullet” and trying to do some of the things I used to do but I just don’t want to. Like decorating. Everybody says “do it for yourself.” I don’t want to do it. I will never want to do it again. That part of my life is long gone.


  4. It’s funny, that movie was always my favorite this time of year, and I too haven’t seen it for maybe at least 10 years. If not 10 then at least close to that. I’m not sure why I apparently am avoiding it since it’s not hard to ever really see. But I suppose one of these day I’ll be in the mood again. I hope you will also. – Marty


  5. I love that movie too – it reminds us that are lives are valuable even if we don’t always think so. And by the way I love Bad Santa too – cursing, inappropriate humor – right up my fucking alley 😉


  6. My favourite too! I watched it just last week. I also like The Glenn Miller Story with James Stewart and June Allyson, even thoughh it make sme cry every single time. It was a similar world. I always make sure to watch on my own, I like to totally emerse myself and not have someone going in and out of the room or making silky remarks. I know it’s sentimental, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.


  7. i LOVE “it’s a wonderful life.” i identify very strongly with george bailey and often find myself standing on a bridge wishing i had never been born…but somehow still believing in a greater good and having bucket fulls of hope.
    but i have officially given up on having a “hallmark” life. my life will be wonderful…but unconventional.
    “elf” is good. it always makes me cry when everyone sings together & believes.
    ah…i’m a sap.
    it’s probably the only thing from keeping me from jumping off that bridge.


  8. I have to wonder if anyone’s life turns out just like they expected it to. I went to the only high school reunion my class ever held – the 20th. When I was in high school, I was an outsider, having been placed there in my senior year and I was pretty weird and introverted and didn’t make friends with anyone easily. I related to younger kids better than I did my peers. I had one date – and it was a ‘pity’ date with the captain of the football team – a blonde hunk whose girlfriend had the idea and had asked an outcast boy as her part…they married shortly after we graduated.

    At the reunion your point was strongly in evidence – the ‘cool’ kids from high school were fat and graying and some very dissatisfied, while others were happy enough with their life in a very small town. One kid who was a real wild child was now a Unitarian Minister and we spent the majority of the reunion talking because I was one of a few that hadn’t embraced the main religion in the town wholesale. I didn’t see the captain of the football team, but I saw his wife – she looked weary.

    I asked someone where he was and they looked shocked and said (in hushed tones) “Oh don’t mention HIM. She doesn’t like talking about him or hearing anything about him.” I thought maybe he’d been in an accident or was dead or something..but no. Turns out he had quite a temper, he was a big man and the wife was a small framed woman. I guess he beat her so badly one time that she almost died. She got a restraining order and divorced him, but he stalked her and made her life a living hell. Then he committed some crime or other and was put in prison, where he was when the reunion occurred.

    You never CAN tell. From what I thought in high school, that couple had a golden future – she was a cheerleader, he was captain ect. They had college in front of them, and look where it ended up.

    For me? I think we create our reality and we can change it. It’s not easy to do, but one can live a great life if they want to do the work involved. They can get away from hideous people and horrible circumstances and change what they will accept and how they view the world. And they can also take a wonderful life and turn it into something out of a horror novel.

    I hope for you that your life becomes something beautiful like that portrayed in a Wonderful Life. Happy Holidays sweetie.


    • I grinned about the “wild child” who is now a minister. My first boyfriend told the dirties jokes I ever heard (and most of them I didn’t understand until years later) and he is now a missionary. Go figure.
      I think some peoples’ lives turn out to be wonderful. I really believe that my children and their “daddy” will have wonderful lives. It’s what I want for my children. For Loser? No…but that’s the way it works sometimes. The destroyer gets the spoils.
      Christmas is another one of the things I have given up. Who knows? Maybe someday, I will create my own holiday.
      I hope you have a wonderful holiday. 🙂


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