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Family Christmas

By Mike Ruffin My Good Wife and I like to watch classic Christmas movies. Among our favorites are It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Elf, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We have a broad definition of ‘classic.’ The other night we turned our attention to an under-appreciated admittedly non-classic made-for-television film: A Very Brady Christmas (1988). That’s Brady as in The Brady Bunch. As the film opens, we learn that Mike and Carol are now empty nesters. They’ve been saving money for a special vacation, but decide to spend it on plane tickets for all six of their children (and, where applicable, their children’s families) to come home for Christmas. Naturally, they anticipate a fun and joyous time of family harmony. But every child is dealing with a crisis. Marcia’s husband just lost his job. Jan and her husband are separated. Greg’s wife wants to spend Christmas with her family. Peter is in love but hesitates to propose because his girlfriend is his boss. Bobby has dropped out of graduate school to drive stock cars. And college student Cindy is tired of being treated like ‘the youngest one in curls’’”she hasn’t even worn her hair in curls for years! On top of all that, Alice the housekeeper moves back in because her husband, Sam the Butcher, has left her for another woman. Half an hour in, the tension was almost unbearable. But after ninety minutes of drama and comedy (dramedy, to use a modern term), every crisis has been resolved and everybody is happy and at peace. Oh wait, I forgot to mention the cave-in. Mike survives a cave-in. On Christmas Day. At a work site on 34th Street. It’s a miracle! It really is a wonderful life. Oh, if things could be that simple in real life. A lot of us will gather with our families during this holiday season. In many cases, the experience will be challenging. That’s because relationships are complicated. People get hurt. Families have drama. Some of our conflicts are over significant things, but some are over trivial stuff. I won’t try to sugarcoat it: some of us will have a very difficult Christmas, and it will be because of problems with those we love best. But I hope we’ll work things out as best we can. I hope we’ll embrace each other with all our flaws. I hope we’ll try to understand each other. Mostly, I hope we’ll try to love each other. It’s not a Christmas episode, but I think a lot about the Modern Family season one episode ‘Family Portrait.’ An effort to take a perfect family portrait has gone awry as a mud fight breaks out among the white-clad family members. In a voiceover at the episode’s conclusion, Jay (played by Ed O’Neill) says, ‘Back in ’68’¦I had this mental picture of the family that, if I was lucky enough, I would end up with. Perfect wife, perfect kids… Well guess what? I didn’t get any of that. I wound up with this sorry bunch. And I’m thankful for that every day. Well, most days.’ May it ever be so for all of us. Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

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