Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: pandemic! Pandemic! PANDEMIC!
Also, it’s the holiday season! We found a way to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend safely and are among the 197 Hoosiers who didn’t test positive for COVID-19 two weeks later. Lord willing, we might just make it to Christmas Day. Maybe even beyond! It’s good to have goals and hopes.
As you may notice every time you fire up an electronic device with human faces or voices on it, 2020 has made sprightly attitudes harder to keep up than ever. For some, positivity comes to them more easily at Christmas because the season brings out their fervor for festivity and/or faith. For some…not so much. I have my own ways of expressing joy, which my wife can often spot when they occur if she squints hard enough. Luckily for me, hers are far more overt. She’s a longtime Christmas fan and often the most encouraging person I know ’round this time of year. Carols, snacks, magnanimous gifting — she’s up for it all. If it weren’t for my stodgy insistence at allowing each holiday to have its own space, she’d have our Christmas tree up in October and leave it up till at least March. Sixteen years into this marriage, we still have to negotiate moderation on a case-by-case basis.
We’d love to say we’ve been accentuating the positive every single day since Black Friday. We really would. Because what the world needs now is love, sweet love. Now more than ever, more love than ever, more ever than ever.
A happy-happy-joy-joy mindset is exceedingly tough to maintain or even fake when we see figurative land mines detonating in all the circles surrounding us. Our Facebook feeds have turned into COVID-19 bingo cards, where we can place chips on the profile photos of the folks we know who’ve tested positive, or have had close relatives test positive and/or die from COVID-19 complications. I still remember which internet friend was first to share her news months ago. Thankfully she’s doing better now. Not everyone I know is.
But Christmas! Must! Cheer! Up! Somehow!
One thing our family did the other night for fun was peruse our cable-TV provider’s complete list of Christmas movies available to watch free in various levels of pan-and-scan screen-chopping and annoying commercial insertions. All 513 of them. That isn’t a made-up joke number. 513 Christmas films. And that isn’t every Christmas film ever. It covers several classics. It covers a wide swath of Hallmark Christmas films. It covers every conceivable angle on Christmas from every genre, down to and including hair-raising non-classics with names like Slay Belles and Christmas Twister and Icetastrophe. It covers a portion of the Dean Cain Christmas library. Fun trivia: Dean Cain has starred in at least eighteen different Christmas films. Well, “different” may be the wrong word.
It’s easy to create your own Christmas movie pitch. Pick a random word or phrase from either the nearest print dictionary or Wikipedia and add the word “Christmas” to it. Presto! Now you just have to cast some actors, and then write a few lines for them to take turns saying. Add a meet-cute, a shopping mall Santa, the North Star, a cameo from a beloved character actor over 65, and presto. Now you’re ready for Redbox in your own little fantasy world, which is a great place to hang out nowadays.
I’ll even create an example for you for self-amusement: a quick click of the Wikipedia “Random article” link generates my latest cinematic idea, Christmas Ulvåkers IF! Apparently they’re a Swedish soccer league, and now I owe them a Christmas film. I wonder if Renny Harlin is free to direct.
If nothing else, making a terrible but uplifting film in my head will distract me from stresses around me. Despite the pandemic and the 6,805 confirmed/related deaths in Indiana alone, we’ve been invited to one (1) family gathering. The announcement advised us in advance the hosts will be maskless, as will some of the guests. They kindly added verbiage to the effect of, “We understand if you choose to wear masks. We understand if you decide not to come.”
I don’t think it’s us they need to understand.
Urge to rant rising. Maybe Wikipedia can calm me down again.
So our next pitch is Christmas Doric Club, about 19th-century Canadian rebels finding peace on Earth once they stop pointing their guns at Lower Canada government officials. It will probably not feature Lori Loughlin, costar of three Christmas films. Four if we count the spoof Farce of the Penguins, which has ice and is therefore close enough.
I appreciate that our employers have taken sensible approaches to the conditions around us. While Anne has been working from home, I still report to the office daily for tasks that can’t be handled remotely so my coworkers don’t have to. Coronavirus protocols are firmly in place for what has become a professional ghost town, both inside and outside as other large companies around us rock the work-from-home paradigm and smaller businesses die off one by one.
Recently I’ve begun livening up the workday with Christmas channels on Sirius XM, which recently changed their perks to use the app without an extra charge. My previous session had highlights ranging from Ariana Grande’s catchy “Santa, Tell Me” to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Christmas All Over Again”, in which drummer Stan Lynch brings forth the heavy beats just as I like them, as if to proclaim to one and all that the Little Drummer Boy didn’t die in vain. A few clunkers popped up, such as the first drive-by blaring of the original “Last Christmas” and John Mellencamp’s otherwise serviceable version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” with a weird coda in which tiny children mumble the chorus as if Mellencamp wandered into an orphanage at 1 a.m. and blew cigarette smoke into their faces. But every song, every measure, every jingle lifts the spirit a little.
Meanwhile on Sundays, we’re now into month nine of attending our church’s weekly services through the synergistic magic of YouTube and Chromecast. Ever since they reopened the doors in July, most of their communications I’ve seen have stressed that protocols are in place to obey the full letter of any applicable government edicts. Those same communications did not exactly add, “and to keep everyone safe.” So far I’ve counted one (1) musician onstage wearing a mask, and at least three services that have concluded with a pastor wishing everyone an awesome week and reminding the studio audience to put their masks back on before exiting the building. They’re planning four Christmas Eve services, all of which will be streamed and all of which allow advance seat reservations. Many seats are already taken.
Deep breaths. Shaking of head. More deep breaths. With no one else around, obviously.
Our next pitch is Christmas VoxForge, about a data repository for speech recognition software that only stores words related to Santa Claus, all of which should be recited by special guest Martin Short, who has been in at least three Christmas projects. Four if we count The Pebble and the Penguin. Again: ice, so sure, why not.
To state the obvious for emphasis: I will not be attending any live, certified Christmas parties this year outside our own home. At all. This sucks. Really, really sucks. But I have reasons to live.
Others are free to continue taking moral luck for granted in their continued survival. Others can trust that a large metaphysical moat exists around their social circles, that their gated communities and hermetic bubbles and circled wagons cannot possibly extend into the rest of America where the infections are. Others can protest how masks can be uncomfortable and make them look funny, as if we’re not all aware of this. Others can trust it will totally be within the Lord’s will to protect them from all harm, entirely forgetting about that time out in the desert when Satan tried to convince Jesus that strutting around like He owned the place was cool. Others can rattle off the tired “if it’s my time, it’s my time” suicide-cult shpiel. If they think masks won’t protect them and God will, one can only assume they also don’t own a gun.
…our next presentation is Christmas Nanny, an adaptation of the 2003 novel by Melissa Nathan that sounds like a British take on Fran Drescher’s Nanny except there’s a love triangle. Also, of course, now we add elves. But, like, sexy elves!
If I am somehow dragged at gunpoint to a Christmas party, keeping in mind I am a large man who is not easy to drag, I would absolutely wear a mask, hide in an empty corner, and rebuff any attempted chitchat by repeating “Obesity is a comorbidity!” over and over in my best Ralph Wiggum voice.
That’s not Plan A. We’ll be finding ways to Christmas cheer right here ourselves. As these photos attest, we’re now surrounded by our decorations all over the house, even though they’ll be seen only by us. And now by you, The Viewers at Home. A few relatives will likely make cameos via Zoom, but swinging our laptop around so they can see all our knickknacks and lights might be awkward. Less awkward than a party that lays out a welcome mat for the Horseman Plague, but awkward nonetheless.
We’ve already tried out two Christmas movies, starting with the post-WWII screwball comedy Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck, Casablanca‘s head waiter, Mary Bailey’s old neighbor, and a guy we recently saw looking much older on a Love Boat rerun on MeTV. Our cable provider also gives us the option to check out the 1992 remake from director Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yep, that’s a thing.
I was less amused by Krampus, a sort of Office/Parks & Rec crossover in which Ben Wyatt and Todd Packer are forced to team up against Christmas monsters while the normally ferocious Toni Collette is demoted to a Concerned Wife and the ending made my head spin around like the Mayor of Halloweentown. But then, I knew all Christmas films can’t be winners.
With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, our prayers continue for safety and glad tidings for all. We also pray fervently for discernment, wisdom, efficient distribution and complete lack of horrid side effects on those vaccines we keep hearing about. We expect it’ll be a while before the line gets to us, but in the meantime we hope to enjoy the season and find those rays of light where we can.
Such as in, um…
…Christmas Ship Motion Test, an educational filmstrip about the use of model boats to simulate giant boat performance during the design process. I nominate Barry Bostwick, costar of five Christmas films, for narrator.