Why Do They Have Television on Christmas?

IMG_0324Anytime I work with a personal story I remember my father’s caution against ever thinking my life is any more interesting than anyone else’s. I hope I haven’t slipped up. Maybe my little story will awaken a place in others where their stories hide.

little family making a living1111 mcAfter the New Year I will be bringing several new features to MysteryShrink. For now I have three short pieces for the season. No grand psychological insights or ‘tips’ of any sort. Just glimpses into our humanity:

Why Do They Have Television on Christmas?

Up Against the Christmas Wall

The Night Manager Who Saved Christmas

  1. Why Do They Have Television on Christmas?

In my family of five, the signal for all-out Christmas fun was when my father to dragged his huge stereo speakers onto the front porch to broadcast evening Christmas music to the neighborhood. Once “Joy to the World” was buzzing the street, he’d return to his miniature Narrow Gauge Durango and Silverton Railroad train making straightaways and switch-backs under our Christmas tree.

True to her Appalachian roots mother sang old time gospel Christmas songs while violins and clarinets pumped out culture from the porch.

As for my sister and brother and me–we played the game Endless Monopoly. (Really. I looked at the instructions and it says: “The game is over when one player flips over the table and says, ‘I can’t take this anymore!’”)

We re-decorated the tree once a day rotating which kid was in charge which meant I had to tolerate my sister’s ‘colorful mixture décor’ and my brother’s toy truck decorations in order to show off my fake-sophisticated model– which my sister rightly pointed out made the tree look like the one in the car dealership commercials. The foil icicles got a lot of play. One day we’d take them all down, flatten them to shimmering, and rehang them with precision. The next day we’d re-crinkle them and toss them free-form to look like a storm or something silver and messy had passed through.street boy with circles samll

Perhaps we turned up the mayhem up even more knowing we were more alone than most families. My mother’s parents died before I was born and the rest of her eight lively siblings were back in the Tennessee mountains. My father’s Danish side of the family were distant and stern, not the kind of people to approve of a grown man playing with a miniature railroad.

blog1One Christmas afternoon when we expected friends, my father tuned on the television to catch the weather. Which is when a shock landed in my little world. There was actually a picture. There were people in front cameras and people behind cameras moving them around. There were even regularly broadcast daily programs. What?

“Why do they have television on Christmas?” I remember asking. “No one watches television on Christmas!”

A few years later while I was a teenager my mother died suddenly after an asthma attack. On Christmas that year the four of us perched like carved Russian dolls lined up on the couch in front of the pre-recorded broadcast of the Today Show.

***In this season, maybe there is someone you know who lost a parent in 2015. Someone acting all grown up and planning to watch television on Christmas.





I'm a psychologist who goes to way too many movies, for the same reason I chose this profession. I love stories. I use movies and novels working with people in my office and during speaking engagements. "You should write some of this down," I kept being told. So, this is it, folks.

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