Tag Archives: Christmas


“Wake-up call”: “a shocking event that changes the way someone thinks; an event that alerts people to a danger or difficulty; a portentous situation that brings an issue to immediate attention.” [This metaphoric term originated in the second half of the 1900’s for a telephone call arranged in advance to awaken a sleeper, especially in a hotel. Its figurative use dates from about 1990. ]

Once more–again: “What are the best Christmas holiday movies?”

I wouldn’t want to be left home alone to watch the bad Santa; however, I am a die-hard fan of being in love–actually. I do believe a miracle, which might occur in New York on 34th Street. Or even in New Jersey, in 2001, thirteen years ago, where Jack and Kate live, thirteen years after he did not board a plane to London and to a wonderful life.

The Family Man

The Family Man is a Christmas story, somewhat about the holiday many peoples of the world will observe. Jack’s movie-story really begins when he goes to sleep, on Christmas Eve. Does he dream, or have the nightmare before Christmas? Or is the story simply a glimpse of “what if”? He says, “One morning I woke up and it was all different.”

We have been scrooged with this kind of “what-if?” story before, in literature and in film. And the endings? “Then I woke up”: that cliché line given after a person relates a dream to another. Yet sometimes, how real it all seemed. And in the telling, the listener, usually our listener friends, wants to know: THEN WHAT HAPPENED?

“Then I woke up.”

What a great line. The older we get, I believe, the wiser or more aware of our lives, if we examine them. This includes especially into the teens when a mom or dad shouts/argues/exasperates, “Do you know what could have happened? What if . . . ?”

Then, as we age, we do have second thoughts about a decision we made, and wonder whether we made a wise choice. Maybe we even want or need second chances. Often we are given a second chance, or are rehabilitated, or do have it to do over (though instant replays are not often present to overturn our lives).

Where would I be if…? Where would I begin to re-live or re-begin, or even want to change how it would all be different?

For some, ONE event/moment with awareness of the implications or consequences can or will be the “wake-up call.” Some others have to be “hit over the head” with the truth.
In the film, acted out honestly and characteristically as Nicholas Cage and Téa Leoni do in this movie about lives and family matters and friendships and jobs and careers, what would be that ONE event/moment for change? And then he woke up. And then?

What a profound, unscrooged Dickens film. This is a “big-people” movie. “Hilarious”? A comedy? As, All’s well that ends well?

As I think about what I have written, or as I write this, music keeps playing in my head: “Chances Are”:

Guess you feel you’ll always be
The one and only one for me
And if you think you could
Well, chances are your chances are awfully good.

Here is the motif, for me, which permeates the film. Taking chances, but then consequences. Maybe best not take that road less travelled by. Or maybe do.

So, the film ends for me, during this special season, despite all the sadness in the world, within people, between people/peoples, among families, concerning bitterness and rivalries, that chances are, positive. That it will work out…one way or another. And we pray for peace on earth, for that someday. Someday chances are awfully good. How? It’s a mystery, but it’s a wonderful life/world. [Music plays: “Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world. Oh yeah…”]

© James F. O’Neil 2014

“When I consider how my light is spent”? –John Milton
Jack says: “I don’t have it all figured out.”


“So what can you tell us about your first Christmas as a married couple?  What was different or unusual that you can remember?  Any special memories of that day–or that season?”

“Let me try to recall.  Y’know that was fifty Christmases ago…  If I go back…”

christmas with jan and marilynChristmas Photo

“That picture is an early one with my sister and my cousin.  We were always together, like The Three Musketeers.”

“But your first Christmas of marriage.  Do you have a picture of that?”

“How about this one?  I was really cute in this one.”

jimmy's christmas

Jimmy’s Christmas Photo

“No.  That is not what I need for the article.  What else do you have?”

“Those old pictures from 1963 must have been with my Argus C3 and were slides.”

ARGUS C3 Photo Credit: Wikipedia

“That was a wonderful camera.  I think I got it as a Christmas present in 1957 or 1958.  I don’t have those slides anymore.  But I do have some black and white pictures of Garfield Boulevard if you want to see them.  No?  Well, sorry about 1963.  I know I took pictures.”

“Please.  I’d like you to tell me what you remember about 1963.”

“I remember one Christmas when I was in grade school.  It was so warm that we walked to Midnight Mass at Saint Justin Martyr.  I remember wearing a pink shirt and dark tie–or maybe it was the other way around.  Anyhow, no snow and warm.”  [1954: 45 degrees]

“Our Christmas in 1963 was a cold one [26 degrees].  In 1966 we were living in Minnesota.  But Chicago had worse weather–and people remember The Storm of 1967: lots of snow.” 

Chicago Snowstorm 1967 Sun Times

“My new wife and I lived in Arlington Heights in 1963.  We had a three-room apartment: living room, kitchen, and bedroom.  And bath, of course.  A nice new apartment building.  I remember that address: 222 North Salem.  I can remember most of my addresses where I lived.  Most.

“Anyhow, we had a small tree in the corner of the living room.  Our first tree, a “Charlie Brown Tree.”

charlie-brown-christmas-tree-jpg1 Charlie Brown Tree

“Everyone seems to have had a tree like that.  Probably that tree we relate to–and why Charles Schulz was so successful.  We all have those common memories.”

Charles Schulz from Wikipedia

“Anyhow.  My dad always had a surprise for us or for the family.  One year he gave my mom a watch, in a box of Fanny May chocolates. 

Fanny May Chocolates for Gifts

“He always put an envelope on the tree for each of us, with a little money inside.  One year–and it is memorable–I got an Underwood portable typewriter.  That was 1956.  I used it through high school and college.  I still have it; it still works.”

underwood typewriterPhoto of My Underwood Leader

“I can’t remember many presents or gifts under that Charlie Brown tree in 1963.  I do remember a black tie-tack and an umbrella.  And the homemade coffee table made by my new wife’s brother Dave.  Mosaic squares.  Lasted a long time.  A high school shop project, I think.  But the most special present was not to arrive for another eight months: our first son.”

“Well, thank you.  I must go now.  I appreciate your time and your memories.”

“Y’know, since ’63 we’ve had many trees and presents.  Oh, and a cold, nose-numbing, stay-inside-and-keep-warm Christmas: 1973.  In western Minnesota, -16 degrees, without the wind.  That was some Christmas!”

“And that’s about all…for now.”

© James F. O’Neil

 TREE 2013Christmas Tree in 2013

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