The Christmas decorations of my childhood home featured a skinny spruce, fat bulbs and electrical tape.
Small-town Missourians did what they could to be festive and keep from burning down a house.
I mention the electrical tape because it held fast as the go-to cure for almost any ill involving the lights. My father, rest his soul, looks down on me every Yule season and shakes his head when I find misbehaving lights and give minimal effort, usually a good shaking, trying to get them to work.
He did not live in a day of big-box retailers and cheap strands of bulbs shipped in from the Pacific Rim. My dad searched in earnest for wiring problems and applied insulating tape in liberal amounts. The man took pride in fixing things.
For another reason, I mention the electrical tape. Never have I seen a roll of it in a made-for-TV Christmas movie, and there appears to be quite an inventory through which one can search.
I took note that Hallmark began its “Countdown to Christmas” a week ago, a pre-Halloween assault of holiday-skipping. My belt will not be loosened for weeks to accommodate a Thanksgiving feast, yet good feelings and general wistfulness already have been premiered in a movie called “Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses.”
(Spoiler: No one gets killed in a chainsaw attack.)
You will not catch me badmouthing a Christmas movie. If sentimentality can be a deep pool, I will at least go in for a wade.
Nor does it seem my place to discourage anyone who can’t get enough of these movies, no matter the state of a calendar. Face it, between innings of a World Series broadcast we could walk to a window and watch it snow. Nothing feels bound by timing in this crazy world.
Knowing all that, a rebellion rises in me. Not about the premature scheduling, forced though it might be. Rather, it’s about expectations. The absence of electrical tape stands as only one of my complaints.
Many of these Christmas movies take place in quaint towns, the sort of burgs where everyone attends the same festivals, gets hot chocolate at the same shops and patronizes the same hardware store, where the owner knows all citizens by name and has fended off the threat of internet sales.
The town where I grew up was probably about the size of many of these places, while it certainly had fewer power demands (no one in these movies dares to leave a house unlit) and no central unifying civic gazebo.
For all this rusticity, the movie towns have a sheen of Martha Stewart about them. Every Christmas tree looks to have been lifted from a Crate and Barrel catalog. No doorway or window has been exempted from the careful hanging of garland.
Find a flat surface and you will find a knickknack, keepsake, curio, memento, geegaw, novelty, relic or figurine expertly placed for maximum holiday emotion.
Not that Lifetime channel devotees demand aspects of cinema verite in their Christmas fare, but give us a break with the fanciness. Can’t we make room for a kid-created ornament made from Popsicle sticks and a class picture?
Folks experience art in their own way, and I think this year’s lineup – whether “Christmas at Graceland” or “Christmas in Rome” or “Christmas in Evergreen” or “Christmas at Dollywood” – will satisfy most tastes.
I just wonder if some niche market exists for a harried soul who finds half a strand of white lights dark and figures he can shove them unnoticed (though everyone notices) to the back of the tree.
The name of my Hallmark Christmas movie would be “Good Enough.”