Monday, December 17, 2012

White Christmas: "Is this the end?"

For the past three years, my friend and I have thrown a small "boozy baking day" party.

We bake sugar cookies, experiment with Christmasy cocktails, and watch Christmas movies, and this year it happened to coincide with watching the small-town lighted Christmas parade from Katrina's over-the-main-street-shops apartment.

This year my friend Bethany told us she'd never seen White Christmas, so we had it playing while we frosted cookies, drank hot buttered rum--light on the butter--and waited for the peppermint bark to cool in the freezer.

We were moving in and out between the kitchen and the living room, but I happened to sit down during the scene where the two sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, are going to sleep the evening after little sister Judy has announced her engagement. We see modestly pajama'd Betty lying on her side, facing the camera in the foreground of the shot, and Judy sitting up in the background. Judy, thinking out loud, chats about how Betty can now feel free to do whatever she wants, and not be obligated to take care of her little sister. Betty, tears silently streaking her face, pretends to be asleep, and Judy, a little disappointed in the end of her sisterly chat,  goes to sleep as well.

Bethany walked in as I watched this scene. "Is this the end of the movie?" 

"No," I said "This is a happy movie."

I try not to think about the fact that this scene is where my story seems likely to end.

White Christmas wouldn't be the classic it is if the story ended there, with Betty's tears being shed because her key relationships are changing and she feels profoundly alone and unloved. 

I think of Laura Linney's character Sarah in the Christmas tragi-rom-com 'Love Actually.' 



Sarah's story is frustrating, considered a loose end by many because it doesn't end with the happy resolution of romantic love requited, but in a choice to accept a "not particularly note-worthy or inspiring", according to the film's opening, kind of love. 

On Christmas Eve, when our other characters are experiencing the triumph of Love Found, we see her paying a solitary visit to her mentally disturbed and institutionalized brother, receiving from him an uncharacteristic moment of lucidity and empathy (a strange little miracle moment relegated to  the deleted scenes). That's all the emotional and narrative payoff Sarah gets, as far as we see. I've always respected Sarah's story, but it's not the one you hope you end up living.

Even the 'loose end' stories of the faithful-but-barren Elizabeth and Hannah, who prayed their whole lives long to become mothers, end in resolution; Elizabeth becomes the mother of John the Baptist, Hannah the mother of Samuel, and both lived to see Jesus walk the earth. Still, I sometimes wonder about the other women in Elizabeth's and Hannah's communities who must have existed, whose stories aren't part of scripture. The ones who never married. The ones who stayed infertile. The ones whose stories ended as marginalized members of society, not as triumphant miracles.

Stories of those great transcendent miracles get told because they are rare, not because they are common. 

Still though, those untold lives must have experienced the small, everyday miracles of being in this world. Snow-stars drifting, and other beauties. Laughter. Good food. Creative work. Companionship, though not the kind they might have longed for. Children, though not their own. 

1 comment:

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

...and as someone who mostly believes that my story won't have Hannah and Sarah's ending, either (though, like Rosalie Cullen, I "got half" of everything I wanted): this was beautiful. Thanks for sharing.