December 1st. This perhaps was one of the first years I'd so completely forgotten that my 6 year old brother died on this day, many years ago. I almost can't help but remember his birthday and the day he died; especially the day he died. But this year, December 1st meant Christmas and decorations and Gabriel the Elf and the beginning of chocolate Advent calendars from Trader Joe's. It's been only now that I realized I'd forgotten.
And yet, I guess one never really forgets and all it takes is some silly reference or memory and it feels and seems and even smells and tastes just like it did so long ago. I've posted about baby Samuel and praying for him on this blog, and I'm reminded of how I hate sickness and kids with illness. And of course, that would bother anyone.
Ironically, it is movies that hold such a strong emotional tie for me. I recall standing in line to see Star Wars. And of course, all the sequels. In fact, I think that was my dad's favorite pastime with us, our family outing: going to the movies. Is it ironic or predictable that whenever I have a "date night" with my husband we rarely go to a movie? Movies, to me, are in a strange category: you go you sit in the same room as another, right next to them. There's the appearance of spending time with one another but it was rarely fulfilling. You go, you sit, you leave.
I'm always left wanting more.
There are two movies that are forever branded in my mind. They are forever blurred with different emotions, experiences that really don't belong to the movie but have been transferred there. They say movies and television are a way of escaping reality. That even when the economy is down, things like amusement parks or small luxuries makes you "forget" the bad. A small indulgence to make one feel better.
The Man From Snowy River is one of the movies on my "Branded forever in my mind" list and not because it was such a great, meaningful movie. I think we saw it when my brother was very sick; not sure if he was with us or in the hospital, but I remember needing to escape; to numb the reality that couldn't be numbed. I remember sitting there in silence, all of us, a row of silent, hurting people pretending it was all okay. And then later talking about the beautiful scenery and shots. Just feeling numb and knowing we'd be going back to reality: the reality that my brother was still sick and dying and there was nothing we could do.
The following year, we saw A Christmas Story. Again, at Christmas time. I think this was just weeks after my brother died. Such an awkward attempt at being a family and being together like it was all okay and it would be okay. It is such a great movie and always makes me laugh, but there's a sadness there too. I'll never be able to watch A Christmas Story without thinking of my brother; he looked so much like Ralphie, especially when he took off his glasses during the fight scene. My mom exclaimed that night he looked just like my brother. Just like him.
So when I watched A Christmas Story last night with my friend Ellyn and my kids with their pillow pets, blankets and popcorn, talking throughout much of it, I couldn't help but think of the awkwardness, silence, sadness and forced conversation so long ago as we struggled to connect together after such a tragedy. What to say? We're all grieving. So we say nothing.
Contrast that to my experience last night! With popcorn on the floor, kids talking and a story so familiar that it doesn't matter if you hear the words of the movie; you know it all by heart anyways. Instead of silence, and solemnity, there is laughter We're not in a dark movie theatre but I like it better here in the light.
And I am grateful. Thankful that I have 3 adorable kids who talk through movies and drive me crazy. Grateful that they are healthy! Grateful there is no silence and we can talk and converse, ask questions and speak freely.
Believe it or not, I still laugh at A Christmas Story; how could I not? But at this time, Christmas, when we think of family and togetherness, I realize a bit of the disconnectedness in my life and wish it was different, yet still thankful. I wish things were different, but I also know there is much to be thankful for. And I'm thankful this Christmas and reminded of how much my family means to me and how I want to stay connected with them; all of them. David and the kids. No matter what.