Christmas shoebox gifts packed by volunteers for the Apostleship of the Sea Baltimore Stella Maris International Seafarers' Center are distributed to merchants docked in the Port of Baltimore. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
I'm in a Baltimore holidaze, and I'm not going to snap out of it any time soon.
At this point, my excess mirth is as noticeable as the excess girth I've attained thanks to office snacking, and I'm determined to spread my superfluous cheer more merrily than the department of public works spreads sand o'er our festive pothole-ridden roads. So grab a candy cane and read on!
Here's what happened. My husband and I agreed to watch one Christmas movie every single night, starting Dec. 1. There were rules, of course. No true classics, like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street;" nor modern ones, like "Home Alone" or "Elf." We both had to have not seen (or at least not remembered) the particular holiday-themed film of the evening. And, to level the Yuletide field, the holiday program had to be "free" — either on regular television or streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
I'm joyful to report that Hark! The Herald Networks bring us more than 2,000 Christmas-themed films available for holiday viewing. By day 22 we had seen a documentary on the yearly experience of a Canadian Christmas-tree vendor in New York City, a British comedy about breaking Santa Claus out of jail, and a "Freaky Friday"-esque film about an elderly department store Santa switching bodies with a youthful con artist.
Everyone finds the proper spirit in the end, and we are savvy enough viewers to predict who is going to fall in love with whom, who is going to have a change of heart, who is going to learn a lesson, and who will ultimately discover the true meaning of the season. If you were an Elf on a Shelf in our basement watching us watching, you might find some of our comments snarky, our laughter sarcastic, our jaded evaluations of the casting, acting, scenery and predictable scripts a tad, well, Grinchy.
But, at the risk of portraying us as sentimental sops, you would also catch us wiping away an occasional tear and holding each other as we rediscover what we have always known — that the world is indeed a beautiful place, and it's filled with people who have good hearts.
To be honest, we've been pelted relentlessly with antithetical messages throughout 2016. Even my new iPhone operating system insists on updating me hourly with tragedies — impulsive, angry words and deeds that are never erased as effortlessly from one's frame of mind as they are swiped off a screen.
Now, I know watching Christmas movies does not dismiss the grim realities of our city. But here's what it does do — or at least what it has done for my husband and me. It makes us pause and let the other driver into our lane during the morning commute. It moves us to bring the non sequitur gift of homemade fudge to an appointment with the dentist. It has given us what can only be termed a Clausible lift.
There's science behind this, naturally. I refer to the substantive research done by the Janet F. Combs Institute in the late 1990s, when the show "The Sopranos" was popular. Busy with a job and growing family, I would routinely tape episodes and watch them back-to-back, sometimes three or four at a time. The writing and acting were superlative, and yet afterward, I felt profoundly depressed. Everywhere I looked, I saw ulterior motives, duplicitous relatives, shady businesses and dangerous arrangements. A similar thing happened a couple of years ago when I became obsessed with spotting meth labs in backyard playhouses after binge-watching episodes of "Breaking Bad."
I guess what I'm saying, hon, is that we sure do give a lot of lip service to the word "believe" around here. But if you permit positive thoughts to frame your view of the world, your actions will follow Santa suit.
Still skeptical? Maybe you'll just have to watch the holiday film, "The Miracle of the Christmas Movie Marathon," coming soon to a theatre near you.