The week of Christmas, my parents’ house. Both girls had fallen asleep. Stanton and I sat with my two brothers and sister in the family room. The conversation topic at hand: what movie to watch.
We scrolled through the options on Netflix. I had read good things about “Bird Box,” and “Carol.” Jenna and I, halfheartedly, suggested “Love Actually” (predictably, Stanton, Josh and Jared groaned their dissent). None of these options, however, was ever a serious contender. We all knew—all five of us—that we would, in the end, settle on something we’d seen many times before.
That night, we watched “Fletch,” the ’80s cult classic starring Chevy Chase as investigative journalist Irwin M. Fletcher (and multiple aliases).
Chevy Chase once said Fletch was his favorite role. Personally, I prefer him as Clark Griswold. “Christmas Vacation” is another favorite in my family’s (admittedly short) list of beloved motion pictures. Sometimes, my dad and I even have text conversations consisting entirely of “Christmas Vacation” quotes. (“If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.”)
I loved watching “Fletch” once again too, though. I enjoyed seeing Tim Matheson as Alan Stanwyck, before he was John Hoynes. His back-and-forth with Fletch still made me laugh. (“Do you own rubber gloves?” “I rent. I have a lease, with an option to buy.”) And still, I’m not entirely clear on the LAPD/drug trafficking story line, but that doesn’t impede my enjoyment of the film. It doesn’t matter, to me.
Why? Because “Fletch” is familiar—comfort food, in a way. And I would never think to watch it on my own, without my family. It wouldn’t be as fun: no one to quote punch lines with, no one to laugh with. No shared history, or memories, or paper plates of Doritos (a guilty pleasure, a few times a year).
Favorite family movies. We all have them. (What are yours?)
While we were all together (in addition to rewatching “Fletch”), Stanton, my siblings and I took part in a local pizza place’s Trivia Night. Our team name? I Don’t Know, Margo, in reference to a “Christmas Vacation” quote (and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character, pre-“Seinfeld”). Of course our team name referenced a favorite family movie quote.
Trivia Night together was a lot of fun. Mostly because we had my brother Josh on our team, I Don’t Know, Margo, won. As we walked to our car afterward, Jenna led us in singing, “We Are the Champions.”
Yes, we were that family. 😉
That family, friends, similar to so many others. All with their share of joys, disappointments and inside jokes. And still coming together again, holiday after holiday, year after year, despite any distances or differences.
After our own Christmas vacation, Stanton, the girls and I got ready to head home. We all hugged one another goodbye. My sister told Anna, “I’ll miss you so much!”
Anna, 3 years old, smiled, shouted, “I’ll be back!” and ran out the front door. Anna makes me smile all the time, and I smiled then too.
“I’ll be back!”—this sentiment sums up why we watch the same old movies again and again. They take us back. Back in time, to a younger, more innocent, less complicated time. When everyone with whom we started out shared the same family room, the same TV.
Favorite family movies bring us forward and keep us together too. We look forward to the special-occasion and everyday reunions that encourage gathering, reminiscing…and cherished-movie rewatching (critics’ reviews, Rotten Tomatoes ratings and actors’ real lives notwithstanding).
“I’ll be back!”—this sentiment sums up why we watch the same old movies again and again. They take us back.
For all our movie watching (and rewatching), Stanton, the girls and I never actually watched a movie together, as a family of four. Kind of crazy, right? When the girls are watching TV, though, we try to get other things done.
We decided to have a super lazy, super cozy New Year’s Eve at home, doing something we’d never done: finally watch a movie together. I made French bread pizza beforehand, and Stanton built a fire in the fireplace. The four of us got comfy on the couch and watched “Beauty and the Beast” (the animated version). The girls had never seen it before and loved it, and Stanton and I enjoyed seeing it again. It was a really simple, really sweet time together, and maybe the start of our own tradition.
Later, after we tucked the girls into bed, Stanton and I tuned in to some of the Times Square Ball Drop news. The New Year’s Eve countdown was on, and winding down. In that moment, I felt an incredible sense of gratitude for my family.
For Stanton, there with me, and our daughters, upstairs. Both our sets of parents and grandmas, our siblings and their families, and our friends who are like family. We’re so lucky for all this love in our life.
When I think about life, and what it is and what it means, the first thing I think is beautiful. And the second thing is fragile.
I try to take care, then, with life and the people in it. I’ve made lots of mistakes, could always be a better person. I do try, though, to seek good, to give love.
Love is the little things. Watching (or rewatching) a movie with family. Speaking kindly to grocery-store cashiers, rather than checking our phones. Basically, being there for people…those we know and those we don’t. Being present.
Why not be present this New Year? Even if we already know all the punch lines.
“Those are three names I enjoy: Marvin, Velma and Provo.”
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.