Thursday, December 9, 2010

Because They Still Make Wooden Christmas Trees

Quick - how many shopping days remain until Christmas? Do not ask me for I matriculated to law school to escape the rigors of hard mathematics. More than one I gather but not as many as people seem to think they need. All of this buildup for one day. I should have paid more attention to how my Jewish friends and their parents did it when I was a kid in school. I wonder now did everyone's Mom/Dad emerge annually from Hanukkah emotionally unscathed or did they just hide the wounds well? According to the calendar on the wall of my office, today marks the end of this year's celebration of Hanukkah. I hope that one and all who celebrate it had a safe and happy one.

Tuesday night the Missus was out doing a bit of the Christmas shopping thing and doing a bit of visiting as well. A two-fisted approach: spreading Holiday stimulus and Holiday cheer simultaneously. Me? I came home from work and sat doing some work in the den while flipping around the dial looking for something to watch on TV. After watching a repeat of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes at 7:30 ("Festivus - A Holiday for the Rest of Us") I stumbled across one of my all-time favorite Christmas specials. ABC aired "A Charlie Brown Christmas" at 8:00. And while I missed the beginning of it, once I came across it I set down the remote control and remained parked there for its duration.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" was made forty-five years ago. All of my life I have been an enormous fan of Charles Schulz's Peanuts characters. I have had a particularly soft spot in my heart for Charlie Brown. Maybe it is because both of us were created (without any say in the matter I might add) with enormous, oversized heads. Maybe it is because while both of us participated enthusiastically and earnestly in a variety of sports as children, neither of us possessed what the kids today might refer to as "mad skills". Fortunately I never actually got struck hard enough with a baseball that it made of my clothing fall off. I speak not only for me but for anyone and everyone who has ever seen me fully-garbed when I say, "Thank you" to whoever or whatever it is controls such occurrences for not having such an event happen to me. There are not enough trees in all the forests in all of the world to produce the quantity of sticks needed to poke out minds' eyes were that to happen.

Maybe it was because for reasons I never understood as a boy - and having gotten heavier, taller and grayer but not wiser as a man in my mid-40's - and still do not understand today, Dad called me "Chuck". If my life and the lives of all of those I love depended on it I could not tell anyone why he did. I honestly have no idea. I have no recollection of ever knowing why he did it. I do recall, being the youngest of six and dealing with fun childhood stuff such as epilepsy for which I consumed multiple tablespoons of Phenobarbital daily, I never asked and I certainly never complained. As the only member of the Kenny sextet born sans a middle name and aware of Mom's explanation as to why that had happened, "We ran out of clever combinations", having a middle name -even if was of the faux variety - assigned to me by Dad was fantastic. I do recall writing my name on papers in school when I was in first or second (OK or tenth) grade, "Adam Chuck Kenny", as if it was my middle name and as if "ACK" was my officially recognized monogram (Here's to you Berkeley Breathed.)

Whatever the reason, Charlie Brown and I have been brothers from other mothers my entire life. So there I sat Tuesday night, alone in my den save for the company of our assorted animals, watching a program ostensibly created for children but really intended for all of us. And there it was - as it always is - shortly before the end of the show: the scene in which Linus steps out from behind the security blanket to front and center. Linus, the keeper of all that is righteous in the world of Peanuts. He steps to the center of the stage at the gang's rehearsal for the Christmas play to help out his friend Charlie Brown.

If you have seen it, and if you are old enough to find your way here and to have read to this point then you most assuredly have, then you know that Charlie Brown appears to be one his way to fumbling the job of Director of the Christmas play. A job given to him by Lucy as part of a prescribed course of psychiatric treatment (I noticed last night that Dr. Lucy charged a nickel a session for her services but her signage was light on issues of insurance plans accepted and whether her stated rate was in-network or out of network) and a job that included among its many responsibilities the task of selecting a Christmas tree. Not surprisingly Charlie Brown selects a tree whose charms - while obvious to him - are not quite so obvious to the rest of the gang and he hears it from all of them (including Snoopy) when he brings the tree to rehearsal for all of them to see.

Having taken quite a tongue-lashing from his peers, Charlie Brown begins anew questioning the meaning of Christmas and wondering whether it is really supposed to be about glitz, glamour and shiny things. And into the breach strides Linus, a little fellow so inherently insecure that he carries his blanket with him wherever he goes and he sucks his thumb. Yet, in a scene that was probably fairly daring at the time Schulz wrote it, Linus explained it all.

I am not a religious man. Not anything close to it. But in an era in which the bombardment of advertising for items to purchase for Christmas begins at Halloween and stops at 11:58 p.m. on Christmas Eve, it was nice to be reminded by a little boy with a blanket that it is not all about the bargains. And it never has been.


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