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“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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What's your favorite holiday movie?


Wednesday 16th of December 2020

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!


Thursday 17th of December 2020

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!


Saturday 17th of December 2011

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...


Saturday 17th of December 2011

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!


Friday 16th of December 2011

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!


Saturday 17th of December 2011

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!

Beth L. Gainer

Thursday 30th of December 2010

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.


Thursday 30th of December 2010

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....


Thursday 30th of December 2010

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 ;-)


Thursday 30th of December 2010

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!

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