Auntie, T, Auntie T, do you wanna play school with me? You’re the teacher. Auntie T, let’s play yoga. Auntie T, let’s play gymnastics, be the teacher! Auntie T, let’s play tag! Auuuuntieeeee Teeeee! I’m hiiiiiiiding. Auntie T, will you do a floor puzzle with me? Auntie T, let’s play tic-tac-toe. Let’s play school again. Yoga.Gymnastics.Tag.Hide-and-go-seek.Tic-tac-toe.Floor puzzles.Back to school!
I had somehow found myself in the middle of a five-hour repetitive cycle of Graceland, which is less Elvis Presley and more the inner workings of a four-year-old child named Grace. At the time, I was unemployed and only watching the kids for a few hours, so I figured I’d fully commit to the task, putting every ounce of attention and energy I had into the littlest Dinndorfs. How hard could it be?
Holy shit. These things do not turn off. I don’t think Grace stopped talking once. Well, except for the time I went to the bathroom and came out to find her coloring her hair with this weird hair paint I wasn’t quite sure was meant for real hair, but we were past the point of no return, so I told her it looked pretty, chunks and all.
The older I get, the more respect I have for the parental ability to keep it together, even if it’s just a facade. Never again will I question the mom with the cute little kid tugging on her coat, “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom,” while she’s more absorbed than any human should be in the throw pillows at Target. If you acknowledged every “Mom,” that would quite literally be the only thing you ever did for 24 hours a day, every day, for the rest of your life, period. In fact, with every “Mom,” it’s quite possible moms fall deeper absorbed into whatever’s in front of them, because as everyone knows, if you give a mouse a cookie…
But I adore this child. Back when I lived at the Dorf Haus, she’d wake me up every morning by silently shoving a candle in my face, which was Grace-speak for ‘light this thing so I can blow it out,’ repeat x5. Sometimes she’d just crawl quietly up onto the foot of the bed and creepily stare at me until I acknowledged her presence.
Now she comes downstairs and bangs a plastic hammer against a metal pole. (And yes, to answer your question, I am an adult woman who has frequent sleepovers at her adult friend’s house.)
When Lisa came home (finally) from work, I must have looked two steps away from a one-way ticket to crazy town because the first thing she said, “Ah, so, Grace was on all day?” Clearly, she’d been there. I stumbled out the door, drove home in a daze, eager to sit on my couch and quietly stare at my wall in silence.
Which is about the time my sister FaceTimed me, her tiny four-month-old cooing happily from her lap. I wanted to scream at her, RUN!! I’VE SEEN YOUR FUTURE!! IT’S EXHAUSTING! But I refrained, because no one needs to hear that shit. Besides, she just wanted to share the happy news: Hallmark had started airing their holiday specials!
It was the first week in November. I mean, why stop at the infamous 25 day countdown when you can hook people for 50? Especially since, and I think most of us can agree, the thought of the holidays, the idea of Christmas, is almost always so much more satisfying than any of our realities.
Over consumption of fake snowfall at all the perfect moments, quirky yet strangely functional families, and adorably romantic endeavors that always work out, really leaves us little choice but to waltz into the holidays with completely ridiculous expectations. Usually Reality trips us on our way out the front door and laughs in our face. So who wouldn’t want to start the approach that much sooner, provide some extra cushion for our inevitable letdown?
My obsession with these super cheesy holiday flicks began somewhere around the time my own Christmas lost it’s magic by way of adulthood, and I turned to outside sources to keep it alive. That’s right, I outsource my holiday happiness. Adult Christmas is a lot of work, nothing like the fond memories of your childhood, especially if you have no children for which to be sculpting memories. Getting through the holidays with Hallmark is sort of like living vicariously through anyone else on the internet, but it’s also sort of like coming home. Home to a place that won’t disappoint you (they’re stupidly predictable), to people you’ve never met (and let’s be honest, probably never want to meet, except for that dude in Window Wonderland…he’s pretty neat), yet feel like family. Year after year, they reliably show up in all the classics. And I’m definitely abusing the term “classic,” by referring to smash hits such as (but not limited to): Holiday in Handcuffs, The 12 Dates of Christmas, Holidaze, and basically anything starring Lacey Chabert or Candace Cameron.
During one of my recent Dorf Haus sleepovers, which also happens to be a safe place to binge on terrible holiday movies (admit it, you’d be a regular too), my brain started connecting all the super obvious dots, dots that have been there for years.
So there’s this one common storyline seen in multiple movies across all networks, in which the leading lady has a super chaotic family life where absolutely everything seems to go wrong in the first 20 minutes. Then she hits her head in a small variety of uncreative ways and the rest of the movie is spent living the life she could have had: single sans kids with a successful career, freedom and money, always tons of money, big city living and usually a cat. At first she loves it, then she sees the gaping empty black hole that her life in the fast lane represents, and eventually realizes how much she loves her crazy family. POOF she wakes up, back in the suburbs, surrounded by the chaotic life she was wishing away just minutes before, now for which she has a whole new appreciation. MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!
Oh, except you single ladies with solid careers, freedom and felines. You go back to being the lonely, pathetic creatures you obviously are, in your gaping, empty, black holes.
Sitting there with Lisa, I realized how together, we sort of represented both sides of this fictional Hallmark life.
“I meeeeean, do they really have to portray the non-family life so…negatively?”
“Yeah, I was wondering if you were taking this personally.”
I mean, first of all, come on. If you already have a loving husband and children and were suddenly forced to live a life without them, of course you’re going to miss them and want them back. If you didn’t, Hallmark would certainly not be the channel promoting your messed-up mind, you horrible human. I mean, I would NEVER choose a life without Grace and Luke, and they aren’t even my children. But, let the record show, I did not feel like I entered the lonely despairs of hell when I entered my own home. I felt…great. Relieved. Peaceful. Happy to be back in my black hole.
See, I don’t have a problem with the way these stories all inevitably end, with appreciation and love for the chaotic family life. “You don’t know how good you got it ’til it’s gone” is a real thing, affecting all walks of life. I absolutely adore the little slices of chaotic family life I get from my close friends and brother and sister’s nuclear families; without them, I too might be sad and lost. It’s just that they make these “other” paths seem so…cold. So empty. The single, successful, financially independent, free woman is without fail, bitchy, lonely and downright scary. She has the predictable cat instead of the predictable family dog. She doesn’t have many friends apart from the doorman at her fancy apartment building, her eager assistant or elderly neighbor. She never seems to get along with her family and she’s alienated most of the friends she’s ever had. She’s not just without a husband and family, she’s completely and utterly a l o n e.
Holidays (especially of the Hallmark variety) are about family, so it’s totally natural this is the focus of these movies. No one wants to see a Christmas movie about a single gal in her late 30s, living with her cats, working from home, making delicious meals for one, swiping right (mostly left) from her couch, drinking wine, having adult sleepovers judging Hallmark holiday movies, totally digging her life choices. I mean, who would watch that?
But maybe next year, Hallmark, consider lightening up on the ‘alternative life’ scenarios. You know, make them seem like more of a choice rather than a horrible mistake.
K thanks, bye.