Well, goodbye to 2010. It was a long, rough year. I said goodbye to two wonderful people and endured a tough surgery, amid several other more mundane happenings, too boring to mention here, which were just made more difficult because of those bigger things. Yet, hope is tenacious. It's still a wonderful life. George Bailey reminded me of that last week.
I bought that classic film, It's a Wonderful Life, online this season and it arrived just in time - on Christmas Eve. The first time I saw that film I was in my late teens, and I didn't like it. Who the heck was this George Bailey and what was up with that silly little angel named Clarence? I caught bits and pieces of it on TV as I helped my family decorate the Christmas tree, wondering Geez, a story about some depressed guy who didn't want to live is a classic Christmas movie? What gives? Where's Santa? Where's Charlie Brown? I felt quietly embarrassed as I watched this man fall apart onscreen, and also again as I witnessed his joy restored at the end of the story. Hokey, I thought. It just didn't fit in with my idea of Christmas. I wanted a perfect Christmas, with a pretty tree, pretty presents, and a pretty ... ahem ... a handsome boyfriend to kiss under the mistletoe. I was going to have a wonderful life, and, in my mind, it had no resemblance to George Bailey's.
Well, as anyone who lives long enough knows, we can't always get what we want. George wanted to travel the world; he didn't want to stay in Bedford Falls. But, through no fault of his own, he stayed there and was eventually driven to deep despair.
The exuberance of youthful dreams gets tempered by what life hands us. As my little girl started saying years ago, that's just the way life is. We don't get to choose the tragedies that happen to us. Except if we take our own life, which is the only choice that George thought he could bear. Until, that is, his angel appeared and took him on a wild ride to show him what life would have been like if he had never been born. That was quite a Christmas gift. A messy one that can't be wrapped and put under a tree, but I'd take it. And I do now, without embarrassment, every time I watch the miracle of George eventually realizing the worth of his own life, as he cries out to Clarence, I want to live....I want to live.....
A story of struggle, dashed hopes, despair, and then joy, found in a new perspective. It fit my Christmas perfectly.