Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

When Schmaltzy is Good

Most of us wish to be canny and sophisticated. We force ourselves to stay updated on current events and cutting edge research. We’re trained to look for what’s wrong. But sometimes all that’s awry with the world grows into a monster that sits on your chest when you’re trying to sleep, hissing about nasties like hate, contamination, and disasters—not to mention the stack of personal problems you have to conquer. Whew!

With so much TROUBLE punching you in the gut constantly, you begin to feel depleted and dark. The holidays feel superficial with all the “realistic” accouterments, commercialism, materialism, and maddening music loops. Hypocrisy palls the entire scene. It’s time to get schmaltzy.

Love is the antidote for all kinds of emotional poison. Underneath the obligatory gifts, fattening food, and endless to-do lists, the holidays should still be about love and thankfulness. But how do you climb out of the clouds so you can see the sky? For me, one way to go there is to take a big gulp of sentimentality.

The Hallmark Channel on TV shows a marathon of Christmas films starting after Halloween and running through the holidays. I generally avoid them. According to most standards of film making, they aren’t very good. Many of the same cast members—most of them white—appear in story after story. Meanwhile, their performance skill varies widely. Sometimes the dialogue is so contrived even an Oscar winner would be hard pressed to make it sound believable. But who cares?

The cheesiness of the movies is a part of their charm. You can sit back and relax, knowing perfectly well what will happen. No one will blow up or be shot in the final scene. You’re in an ugliness-free zone where love always wins. Like the original film Mama Mia, even accomplished actors seem to be in on the charade, and everyone has a good time. They remind you to stop taking yourself so seriously and believe in love again. Look around and see what’s good. You can deal with the nasties better when you’re recharged.

One of the aspects of the movies I most enjoy mocking is the setting. The stories often revolve around small towns—not merely hinting but declaring people are more genuine there. (Apparently, audience members enjoy that belief?) Regardless of their size, the towns are always busy, filled with good-natured, lovely people, and lavishly decorated.

One movie I watched during my therapeutic binge session the other day was supposedly happening in Colorado. The set featured patches of “snow,” which looked bizarre next to bushes and trees in full leaf and poorly disguised green lawns. (No, we don’t have greenery—except for the pines—in Colorado in December. In our snow, if you lie down to make a snow angel, you’re going to get wet. And we don’t wear suede jackets and high-heeled city boots to work on a ranch, no matter how cute that would look.)

Still, once or twice a year, I love to curl up beside a fire and watch movies in which happy endings prevail. I’m thankful for the real love scattered throughout my life, and I’m reminded of the ideal I wish were true—peace on Earth, good will towards all. It’s a worthy goal.

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