Christmas in the Northeastern United States is a sharp reflection of all the music and prose and illustration that's been born of the season. One can romanticize the tone of the Victorian era, or embrace the break-neck Star Wars consumerism of right now - this unique temperate zone affords both. As the continent tilts away from the sun and we 'save' an hour, the idea of 'outdoors' becomes an event; it's like living on the moon.  And the idea of a mythic character braving this heartless weather - in an uncovered, unheated conveyance no less - simply to sneak into your house and leave an exclusive set of items just for you made it that much more peculiar and exciting.

"We Didn't Start the Fire" was the #1 song. Driving Miss Daisy was killing it at the box office. The 80s were almost done. The 90s were a week away. Let that sink in.

There was nothing particularly special about Christmas in 1989 - at least, not globally. But to a 6 year old, what else is there? Even addicts can't identify with that kinda tunnel vision.
Though only older now do I understand that it wasn't like that for everyone. But I can't write about that - all I know about is being ensconced in colored lights, power ballads, excessive dessert foods, and movies that don't seem to even exist outside of that three-week period.

My upbringing was White Trash Norman Rockwell.
Store-Bought Apple Pie.
The Harsh, Real-World Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
I was surrounded by working-class intellectuals. We lived within our means & enjoyed life on all its subtextual levels.
There were large generation gaps between the members of my household. Through my mother, I learned Neil Sedaka & Lesley Gore, daytime TV & murder mysteries. My father liked documentaries, Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac & Thoreau. My sister & brother-in-law exposed me to Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, MTV, & horror movies.
This was the 'indoors' climate at that particular time: saccharine with some rock 'n roll. I'm forever pleased with the way it was when it was - not every adult can say that.

For this one year, we borrowed my Uncle Don's video camera (and apparently my Auntie Pat's General Hospital tape) to capture the event. My father acts as God: never appearing on camera, but merely observing & capturing with little intervention. And, as he still points out, I am the star.

Obviously, there are plenty of notable things about that moment in time to you nostalgia buffs out there -- we know your names...
Every Christmas for me seemed to have an incidental theme - at least until the teen years. '89 was, not surprisingly, a shrine to the Box Office champ of that year (as well as its star and director). Most broadly, Xmas89 was the holiday of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. (Little did I know that I was but one year away from Tim's ultimate Xmas atom bomb & one of the most important cinematic experiences of my life. But that's for a later post...)
Apart from the Batman & Beetlejuice blitz, there's a whole lunch wagon of cultural pop rocks all over this VHS.

  • Listen closely to the open & you can hear a Nick at Nite ad for the classic SNL episodes they used to air.
  • My Thundercats pajamas were hand-me-downs from an older cousin - I don't recall ever seeing an episode in its entirety. (And yes, I slept in mom's bed. Until I was 23, I believe).
  • Most of the other gifts were 'joke toys': tricks & gags, whoopee this & fake that, because, let's face it, as cool as the Dark Knight was, I'd chosen sides & I knew who I wanted to be. Hand Blaster Balls(?), an Inspector Gadget hand buzzer, and a literal box of buffoonery featuring a snake-in-a-can, arrow-through-the-head, and dribble glass, given to me by the clown prince of crime himself!

I won't list all the Easter eggs (this isn't Dinosaur Dracula) but I will say, if you squint hard enough, it's almost timeless; take the 80s out of it & it's just an adorable representation of Christmas morning (all due respect to Jean Shepherd. And Dinosaur Dracula).
Of course it's a lotta fun to watch for those involved, on a subjective level. It also packs a punch for me considering how many of the people (& pets) are no longer with us.
Even the house has faded into oblivion.
But I'm most fascinated by the fact that I'm now 3 years older than my father was at the time this video was made. And as Jess & I prepare to welcome a child of our own, it can now act as a splendid reminder of the importance of a happy household, & how it's really not that difficult to achieve. No excuses.

Here, in its entirety, is all 32 minutes of the footage captured at 24 Bennett Place on the morning of December 25th, 1989.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Congratulations on the baby on the way!

I see you guys are keeping up the tradition of pugs as pets. Awesome!

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