Saturday, December 16, 2006

A CATALYST FOR MY CLAUSOMETER: I’d been having some trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. It wasn’t anything in particular; it was simply a matter of having too many things to do in December. The Christmas Muse would not come near me; she’d just walk past my vacancy sign. For the first time in recent years my wife Amy wrote our family newsletter to include with our Christmas cards.

It was more of the same last night at our church’s annual Christmas children’s dinner. Santa gave the kids presents, but I went home with a headache. After the boys went to bed, I finally got a chance to read The Inquirer and noticed that the Bryn Mawr Film Institute was having a special kid’s matinee showing of Elf the next morning at 11:00. Amy and I agreed that I would take the boys if they did a good job practicing the piano in the morning.

The lads did their part practicing. We arrived at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, a throwback theater, a real grande dame from the days when the cinema was king. Slowly the theater filled with kids, hundreds of kids. There is something so enthralling about watching a funny movie with an audience like that. During the scene where Buddy (the Will Ferrell character) exposes the fake Santa at Gimbels, the audience squealed with heartfelt glee.

And then came my favorite scene. Santa’s sleigh, which runs on Christmas spirit, has just crashed in Central Park since there wasn’t enough Christmas spirit to make it go. The sleigh’s “Clausometer” was at zero and things looked bleak for that night’s delivery of toys. Jovie (the Zooey Deschanel character) starts to sing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Gradually the crowd gathered outside Central Park joins in. Soon Santa’s sleigh is flying high, its Clausometer surging from zero to 100.

I felt my son Aidan’s slender fingers grab my arm, his face aglow. I could feel his elbow thumping against the armrest, keeping time with the music. His enchantment was all consuming.

At the end of the movie, all of the kids stood up and cheered. And, well, so did I. We exited the theater, my big boys and me, into the bright lights of Bryn Mawr. Arm in arm, we skipped down the sidewalk to a store where I bought them Pokemon cards. As the afternoon wore on, I found myself whistling the tune to “Sleigh Ride.”

So bring it on, Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s! I am ready for you now because a buddy named Buddy and my two big boys gave me a glimpse of what really matters.

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