If I could make my own Christmas special, here’s how it would go:
It would begin with a log cabin almost buried in snow in a small fir tree glen on a Maritime countryside with a chimney lightly puffing out smoke like my Grampy Melanson used to do. It would look like the sun had only been up a few hours; that bright, crisp new look that a winter morning can have. The kind we only notice on Christmas Day and select winter Saturdays. The camera would keep moving up on that log cabin until we saw inside. And there standing by the fireplace stoking the glowing yule log is a man with his back turned to us. He is wearing jeans and a comfortable plaid flannel shirt, but you can see that his arms and legs are well muscled. He is slightly tanned and carries an aura of being warm and gracious, yet one not to be trifled with. He turns to the camera and to the audience’s delight, that man is me. And I’m about to make a super cool announcement.
Of course, I act like I just noticed they’d arrived and I tell them that we’re about go on a special holiday journey together. I tell them to meet me at the front door where I’ll let them in, just as the Friendly Giant would before the recorder music. And yes, as they come inside they discover that there is a window with a giraffe head poking and it welcomes them with a lazy voice. Beside that window is a cloth bag hanging on the wall with a rooster in it. Of course this will only be for an instant as not everyone in the TV viewing audience would happen to be middle-aged Canadians.
Then I would tell them that if they close their eyes and make a special Christmas wish we would find ourselves on the anticipated journey. The good folks watching from their couches at home will surely all oblige, and when their eyes are opened they discover that we are all in a big sleigh with Santa. We’re flying through the air at Millennium Falcon speed with wind and snow whipping through our hair. It is stupendous! And it’s not just stupendous because of Santa being there. Usually you can’t get any more stupendous than that, but in that sleigh with us is Adam Sandler singing the Hanukah song. No one will care that he’s not that funny anymore, they’ll still laugh. And he will have with him Frosty the Snowman who is still smoking that scandalous pipe.
Then Santa, always the character to have something up his sleeve, had some more jingle jangle stupendousness planned for us. Unexpectedly we start flying higher, and straight upward. We fly so far we pass the moon, we wave at the Pigs in Space spaceship, we narrowly miss the Death Star’s tractor beam and we land squarely on a planet completely inhabited by stop animation characters. We sing Christmas carols together on that planet, which I imagine would look like it was constructed entirely of materials purchased at Michael’s. There would also be a snowball fight. I’d win. No, I’d tie with Santa and we’d do a side bro-hug while everyone applauds.
Finally, we would all say our goodbyes to the brown felt reindeer, the styrofoam snowmen, the yarn-bearded men, and the insanely-small-mouth children and climb back into the sleigh. Santa would drop the audience and I off in a place that was completely dark. Maybe even a little scary. In the darkness a child’s voice would be heard. “Why would Santy Claus do this to us?” that voice would wimper.
I would stroll over to the child with big blue wet eyes. I’d squat down and say, “Don’t worry. Santa always does what he knows we’ll love.”
Cue the music. A piano slowly playing a single key “Something ‘bout Christmas Time” by Bryan Adams that swells into the song being covered by The Kongos. That’s when the lights come up and we see that we are in the middle of a skating rink. I magically have skates on and am joined by all the Sesame Street characters. We skate and skate and skate. We also hold hands and spin in a circle, out of control, until Oscar the Grouch gets thrown down a set of stairs. Nothing says Christmas like throwing a grouch down a set of stairs. I know. I’ve put this principle to the test many times. (Oh Uncle Garth. He’s so silly!)
Then, after a big number of Grover, The Count and I singing “I Saw Three Ships,” I kneel down in Christmas thanks. The camera pans in closely so that the screen is filled only with my earnest face complete with victorious yet astute smile and squinting eyes. It pans back out and I am sitting by the fire. Stockings are hung, a tree with presents sits to my left. Roddy Piper sits in another chair on the other side of the hearth as we share an eggnog together. I tell everyone to have a safe and happy Christmas, then look at Piper and we laugh. At what, I don’t know, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the perfect way to end the special.
I hope you enjoyed this special as much as I did. Don’t tell me you didn’t get goose bumps several times either.
Congratulations Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Sonia Manzano who was Maria on Sesame Street. I had such a crush on her when I was six.
Best Actor: Tammy Grimes who voices Albert on Twas the Night Before Christmas. I remember feeling a little emotional watching this as a kid. The character and the voice are perfect for the story that’s told.
Best Quote: “Aaron’s heart was filled with joy and love. And he knew at last that the hate he had carried there was wrong. As ALL hatred will ever be wrong. For more powerful, more beautiful by far than all the eons of sadness and cruelty and desolation which had come before, was that one tiny, crystalline second of laughter. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” — The Little Drummer Boy
Here’s a little tidbit I read about recently. Apparently CBS wasn’t crazy about the cartoon that Charles Schultz and Lee Mendelson came up with. They didn’t like that it was voiced with child actors instead of adult ones and that there was no accompanying laugh track. They said it lacked action. They also didn’t like the Bible being quoted on network TV. But because of their commitment to the project they grudgingly ok’d it. They were eating their words after it aired A Charlie Brown Christmas brought them 15.4 million viewers. Months later Schultz and Mendelson were awarded an Emmy for “Outstanding Children’s Program.”