Monday, December 14, 2009
Two events jump-started our Christmas. It is our “off” year. The kids will all spend Christmas day with the “in-laws.” This is one of the adjustments to this new world of ours. It’s a life stage thing.
The prospect of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning without children or grandchildren at this point in our lives would otherwise be a handy excuse to leave the boxes of Christmas stuff unopened and stacked out in the garage. It’s not like we give up altogether on the off year. This is not the first one. We’ve learned from experience that a quiet Christmas Eve, just us two, is nothing to be dreaded. It is actually pretty nice.
The first event was Andrea Bocelli with David Foster in high definition and surround sound – the highly advertised PBS Christmas extravaganza. Foster’s “Carol of the Bells” may be my all time favorite version of the traditional piece. It’s big. Really big. Best enjoyed with a serious full-throated subwoofer. My sister made us a CD of her top picks several years ago, which included this orchestral rendition. I snatched it for our Colorado Christmas video that year. The highly edited amateur fifteen-minute digital recording still stands as my finest achievement in home spun entertainment. The sunset over the rocky peaks from a frozen lake with snow laden pine branches in the foreground as our kids frolicked on ice skates to Foster’s Carol of the Bells has yet to be matched.
So Foster opened the show highlighting the full orchestra and all the glitz and excess that unlimited staging budgets can allow with that same Carol, and I was hooked even before Bocelli showed up with his rich Tuscan tenor voice. The two hours flew by and when it was over, I was ready to unload those boxes. Put up the lights.
Then we had another date night, that second event, on the occasion of Carolyn’s birthday. We acted our age, arriving for the late afternoon showing before five, claiming our senior discount. The IMAX Theater must have a thousand seats. And right up to show time, it was just us two, donning our clumsy 3D glasses. We laughed like a couple of high school kids in the empty hall. Maybe the projectionist heard us. No one else. It was OK when five or six wandered in just as the feature began. But it was just us. Disney’s new A Christmas Carol in IMAX 3D was a knockout. We cherish Dickens’ lines, and they were all there. If it was Jim Carrey, it was hard to tell. He found a convincing miserly voice, maybe even more compelling and riveting than George C. Scott’s. “Are there no prison houses?” “… decrease the surplus population!” “Bah, humbug!” Never better.
Scrooge’s conversion always gets me. I’ve read the book to the kids. I’ve seen it on stage, and in a half dozen adaptations. I know that turnabout is coming. But it still gets me. Maybe because at this time of year when the days grow short, and the cold settles into my chest and the coughing interrupts my sleep and the darkness closes in and the pressures mount, maybe in the dead of winter, I need to be converted, too. Sometimes the ghosts from Christmas past, haunting the present and predicting a dark future appear in my dreams, too. Regrets are hard to shake. Even with eternal security. I need a rebirth. From the cold hard realist, cynical, spouting rules, predicting doom, noting the dire consequences of irresponsibility with precision, scoffing at the antics of public servants and other notables, counting pennies, unmoved by the plight of the rest of the world to, well, an openhearted, dancing Fezziwig. If it can happen to Ebenezer, it can happen to me, too.
So Bocelli and Carrey, Foster and Ebenezer, both new productions got me this year. The fly-bys over 1850 London in 3D were spectacular, with St. Paul’s on the horizon under a fresh fallen snow. Bocelli’s rendition of Silent Night; snowflakes drifting down right on stage. Light the candles.
I worked on a script this year. It’s the story of an uncle who donates a part of his own liver to save the life of his five-month-old nephew. Thanks to Stephen, little Liam will be with us this Christmas. And the doctors believe he’ll live out a full life. It will be a video short for four Christmas Eve services this year. The house will be packed.
I am a sentimental man. But the layers of harsh reality get me, too. I’m quite capable of missing it. Missing the whole thing. Including the Manger.
When I caught our four-year-old grandson jumping merrily on our bed this weekend, I almost scolded him; as though he was doing some sort of irreparable damage. And then I remembered Scrooge jumping up and down on his.
So I smiled. And let him jump.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009