December 20, 2013

Saved by John, Jim & Alfie. ~ Heather Grimes

We never quite know when we’re going to be saved. Or what the saving grace will be.

I was in a horrid, beaten, mucked-up mood.

Mainly because my daughter had been in a similar mood for days and I was downright exhausted, and sick of trying to navigate through one meltdown after another.

We had a friend over for a play date, and she just wanted to be alone. So she screamed the entire time he was here. With his mother. Who is my friend.

Then we went out for a walk to get some sun on our sapped faces and to move some of the cortisol downward from our brainstems. This was a lovely glimmer of sanity for the first 15 minutes, then the wind kicked up. It was ridiculous, rude wind, like a dry-land hurricane. Opal’s tears slid sideways across her face—it was that bad. The second half of our walk took us much longer because we were miserably working against a wall of resistance.

She howled the entire way.

We got home—never happier to be home—and I made us some hot chocolate and resigned to plop us in front of a holiday movie until the blood returned to my extremities.

John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.

I picked it because it was there, next to the player, close to my fingers. We’d just got the DVD last year, special-ordered it from a website who puts old films on DVD. Before last year, it had been at least 25 years since I’d seen it. And the initial watching set me awash with a flurry of visceral memories.

The movie came out in 1979; I was two. It was one of our family staples—more than Ralphie and the leg-lamp, more than old frosty and Charlie Brown. As kids, we were such Jim Henson and Muppets fans to begin with, that watching them in a Christmas movie was akin to watching family in a big-time production.

And the music. We knew every iota, every dash, every quirky off-hand comment that wound up in the recording. It was the holiday soundtrack of growing up for my brother and I.

Later, after we grew up, the songs were—and are—accompanied by a gamut of memories: Christmas Eve dinner at that pasta place with the fried cheese and pasta cube appetizer, Christmas Eve church and the 10-minute message from the minister that seemed like an eternity to a young child, the lighting of the luminary buckets on the curb when we got home, and how that action made it official that Christmas was within arm’s reach.

By the time I had on my pajamas, every house in the neighborhood had lined their street with buckets (empty milk jugs with the top cut off), sand and a lit candle, and the sum total of the effort was nothing less than magic.

Opal and I watched John Denver and the Muppets and we sipped our lukewarm hot chocolate. I was too weary to relish the delight of watching something that was so dear to my childhood with my own daughter. Too zapped to even consider it.

We laughed at Miss Piggy and her endless drama. We pointed at Beaker and the Swedish chef. We commented on John Denver’s clothes and the haircut that looked like a silken tea cozy.

Then we came to the part about Alfie.

And—oh my goodness—the tears. My tears. Soft, quiet tears like a valve had opened for a slow release. And what replaced the tension and clenching was a moment of clear, clean good enough.

I had been trying to wrestle my way to relaxation all morning. I’d been trying all sorts of things, some simultaneously: lean into the discomfort, redirect away from it, feel it, ignore it. Eat something.

All efforts fell flat.

Then John, Jim and Alfie came along and reminded me to stop trying so damn hard.

So, dear reader, for your viewing pleasure, a scene from one of the hands-down greatest Christmas movies of all time.

If you can hang in there past the 4:00 mark, you will be blessed with some incredible moments of Kermit crossing and re-crossing his legs. And John gives him the most loving pat on the head at the very end. Gets me every time.


It’s in every one of us to be wise.

Find your heart, open up both your eyes.

We can all know everything without ever knowing why.

It’s in every one of us, by and by.


Thank you Jim, John and Alfie.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

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