“It’s A Wonderful Life”

Recently Dear Hubby, my two sons and I settled in to carry out one of our holiday traditions – watching the movie classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It’s a tradition we started a few years ago, and one we intend to continue.

I must admit, the first few times I watched it, it felt pretty darn sappy, but every year it’s grown on me and has turned into a holiday favorite. Perhaps surprisingly, even from their much younger vantage point, my sons see the life lessons contained in this non-action, old-time movie and appreciate it, once a year anyway.

I thought about why this particular old movie has grown to be so endeared by countless people through the years. Then I realized it’s about love, war, economic hardship, losing a parent, faith, family, responsibility and expectations.

These themes are just as relevant today as they were in 1946. Some things really haven’t changed all that much, right?

The theme that jumped out at me in particular this year was expectations.

We all have certain expectations for ourselves, our children, our jobs, our futures and even our holidays. We plan and organize thinking we can predict and plot out our futures like some kind of life road map. We like to think we know what our futures hold, at least the big picture. We like to think we have control.

Jimmy Stewart’s character had lofty plans or expectations for himself. He wanted to go to college and get out of the small town of Bedford Falls. He wanted a better job and life than his father had. Then came his father’s untimely death, the Great Depression and World War II; suddenly the responsibility of taking care of everyone else fell on his shoulders. He had to give up his dream of going to college and sent his brother instead. The expectations he envisioned for his life had to change. Instead, he had to do what others expected him to do, take care of his family and father’s business. He wasn’t very happy about adjusting what he perceived to be his life’s expectations.

Each Christmas, many of us have expectations for what our perfect holiday should look like. We shop for the perfect presents and perfect tree. We decorate our homes so they will look perfect. We plan for the perfect meal and family gathering. We expect perfect behavior from young children. Then we start making New Year’s resolutions so we can improve upon our bodies and goals in order to make the next year, well, more perfect.

It’s no wonder the holidays can be so exhausting, especially for the perfectionists among us, which thankfully I am not!

I have learned what I expect in life isn’t necessarily what I will get. I have learned we must all be more adaptable because change will surely happen. Our own expectations must adapt and change as well. This doesn’t mean we must settle for less or set smaller goals. It just means we should appreciate what we have right now as well.

Since cancer barged into my life, I still make plans for the future and have expectations for where I hope to go from here. I’ve been forced to make some alterations, and I realize there are more yet to come; but as Jimmy Stewart’s character came to realize,  it still is “a wonderful life” we’ve been given.

In case anyone might be interested, a second favorite holiday movie my family and I enjoy each year is The Muppet Christmas Carol, the one with Michael Caine. This Dickens classic is superbly done and entertains all ages.

A third favorite, which is actually my most favorite of these three, is the 1994 version of Little Women starring Winona Ryder. My daughter and I even manage to get the males in the household to watch this one, although again admittedly, only once a year. Notably, the same themes of love, economic hardship and family are central in these movies as well.

If you haven’t seen these classics, do check them out some time.

In closing, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and thank you for reading my blog!

How have your expectations for your life changed?

What are your favorite holiday movies?

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30 thoughts to ““It’s A Wonderful Life””

  1. Hi Nancy, my family and I love “A Christmas Story.” It evokes a simpler time, when families had no choice but to spend time together without TV, computers, video games. I love that about it. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2011. I look forward to reading your blog next year!

    1. Stacey, Thank you for sharing your favorite movie and also for reading my blog the past months. I look forward to reading yours as well next year and Merry Christmas to you and your family too!

  2. The expectations for my life have certainly drastically altered. But I find that it’s better for me if I don’t dwell on this issue and really just try and take each day as it comes. Otherwise I’d go a bit mad, because expectations seem to change every time I go in for the stupid scans. But I’m still me which is a good thing despite being surrounded by all of this other stuff. As for the movie? Well I absolutely love A Christmas Carol but hands down favorite has to be “Elf”. I could just watch it over and over. All the best to you and here’s to another year of fantastic blogging. Xxxxxx

    1. Anna, All of us diagnosed with cancer must switch gears and alter expectations. Yes, you are still you, and that’s a great thing! All the best to you and yours too, and give that little dog a pat on the head from me. You know, I haven’t seen “Elf.” We might have to check that one out over vacation. Thanks for always being so willing to share.

  3. I enjoyed reading your thoughtful post. I have not so much as altered my expectations as I have had to put aside many of the dreams I had as a woman in my 20’s. First and foremost, I always wanted to be an artist, but have never had the courage to put aside my need for middle class comforts to take on the life of a starving artist. Now in my 50’s I find myself growing increasingly impatient to work as an artist, poverty and all.
    As to favorite Xmas movies, well I like White Christmas and Miracle on 42nd street. I also like Its a Wonderful Life very much too. These classics always manage to be touching, no matter how many times you have seen them!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a very merry holiday and all the best in the coming new year.

    1. Jennifer, Thanks for stopping by my blog and taking time to comment as well. I found yours to be just gorgeous with all those beautiful photos. I’ll be back soon. Thanks for sharing your favorite movies and happy holidays to you and yours.

  4. Nancy,
    Life is “beautiful.” It’s sad it takes a crisis to make some of us aware of how even the most ordinary life is extraordinary in God’s eyes.

    Hoping you’re feeling better and better with each passing week. Here’s wishing us all a healthy immune system! Merry Christmas, sweet lady.


    1. WhiteStone, Yes, there are many versions, but the Muppet one is my favorite by far. It’s beautifully done. Merry Christmas to you and thanks for being such a loyal reader!

  5. beautiful post, enjoyed every word. little women with winona ryder is definitely one of my favorite holidays movies. merry Christmas everybody, i wish you all good health and lots of happiness

  6. I think that our expectations for our life do change. Repeatedly. Our expectations change as our realities change. I love “It’s a Wonderful Life,” because even though his reality changed, and his expectations changed, what did not change was the love surrounding him. And that’s how it is.

    I love George C. Scott’s version of A Christmas Carol. That’s the best one, in my opinion!

    Merry Christmas Nancy!

    1. Debby, You are so right; our expectations are an evolving thing. Good movie favorite there as well, thanks for sharing and merry Christmas to you too!

  7. A belated Merry Christmas Nancy and may Love, Peace, Prosperity and Good Health be your constant companions always.
    Love the family tradition you have going and it makes me realise how hard it has become to have family in other states, each creating new family traditions with their own families.

    1. Chez, Thanks for your good wishes and for reading my blog so faithfully. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas and connected with family somehow. Looking forward to reading more of your blog next year.

  8. Nancy, I love these traditions. Thank you for sharing your favorite videos to watch at this time of year. In the spirit of knowing the therapeutic value of laughter, my husband and I viewed “Elf” last night. That’s another movie that moves the spirit and makes the season brighter. Have a healthy and happy New Year.
    Blogging at http://www.janhasak.com/blog

    1. Jan, Thanks for continuing to read and comment on my blog. You are the second person to metion “Elf,” so I’ll have to watch that one sometime. Good health and happiness to you as well in the coming year.

  9. That movie was my mom’s favorite 🙂 I bought it for her one year, but never watched it until this year when it was on TV…. I fell asleep though and missed the ending! Haha, looks like I’ll try again next year!

    1. Sami, Thanks for your comments, Sami. So, does it make you said when you watch that movie favorite of your mom’s or does it bring you some extra peace or enjoyment? I hate to admit I have fallen asleep during the movie too. And yes, there is always next year!

  10. Nancy, I think it makes me sad just to realize I never watched her favorite movie with her (although we watched plenty of great movies together), but happy to finally get a chance to enjoy it too. Or at least up until the end when my eyelids decided they had had enough! I had to work early the next morning, so I didn’t feel guilty about missing the end 😉

    1. Sami, I’m glad you have happy memories of watching other great movies with your mom. My mother was a great movie fan too and loved going to all the new releases until she got too sick. Yeh, no need to feel guilty, plenty of us have fallen asleep during a movie!

  11. I love all the movies you listed, but my fave is “It’s a Wonderful Life” because it is so insightful and reminds us that we are lucky to have the lives we have.

    Another great posting.

    1. Beth, Yes, I think “It’s A Wonderful Life” really is timeless and full of messages about the real meaning of the Christmas spirit. I hope you enjoyed your holiday with your new daughter! She’s probably still too young for holiday movies, but just wait….

  12. Nancy, That is my favorite movie of all time! Second is Gone With the Wind. I have watched both probably a hundred times! You really ‘summed up’ Jimmy Stewart’s character well! I wish I could express myself as well as YOU do!

    1. Sharon, It is really a good one isn’t it? I seem to like it more every year. I love “Gone With the Wind” too even though it is a bit “sappy.” It was my mom’s favorite movie, so that’s another reason I like it. Plus, I read the book when I was a young girl. Both of these movies certainly stand the test of time. How many others can really say that? Thanks for commenting. I’ll think of you now when I watch either of these two movies!

  13. I love all the great old movies, I’ve watched White Christmas at least 5xs this week, Miracle on 34th St, all the Christmas specials, but the one movie I am very fond of is the *Polar Express*, it is a computer animated movie with life like characters. Tom Hanks has the voice for the conductor It’s about a train that stops in front of Children’s homes who are a little cynical of Christmas, this train travels to the North Pole where Santa has his workshops, Elves, The children on the train have all kinds of misadventures but you can see how they are changing their feelings.. It just an endearing warm fuzzy feeling movie the animation is fantastic,When the Elves pack Santa’s sleigh and the reindeer are being tied up to the sled, and those jingle bells.All the elves start singing It brings back that inner child where my grandparents made Christmas one of the happiest holidays…

    1. Alli, It sounds like you are a bit of a movie buff, for the holiday ones anyway. I am too. I haven’t seen the “Polar Express.” I’ll have to check it out sometime. I wish the TV channels would run more holiday movies than they do. Thanks for the recommendation and happy movie watching!

  14. Much to my kids’ horror, I love the movie Prancer. The little girl’s innocence and her father’s struggle are what first took me. Towards the end of the movie, she asks her dad (played by Sam Elliott who I LOVE), if things are going to get better and he tells her that it’ll always be hard. I cry every time. In recent years my attention is drawn to the fact that this poor kid has lost her mom, probably to cancer because at one point she says, “doctors lie. They never fix anybody.” Oh, man… I also love This Christmas which is about a large black family home for the holidays with all their own problems and situations. Since I’m from a big family, I can relate. And there’s enough comedy within the film that I laugh.
    Merry Christmas!

    1. Linda, I like “Prancer” too, though I haven’t watched that one in years. Love Sam Elliot too – that voice. And yeah, the poor girl who’s missing her mom. Every time Husband and I watch a movie where the wife/mother has died, he says, “probably breast cancer”. Our sense of humor is weird sometimes. Funny. Not funny. I have not seen “This Christmas”. Thank you for sharing a couple of your favorites. Merry Christmas to you too!

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