28 December 2009

Christmas is All Around

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes . . .

Well, not so much anymore. After all that build-up, how quickly it all comes to a close. Evidenced, particularly, by the sight of an entire display full of Valentine's Day items spotted on a quick trip to Target--on December 27.

And yes, the above is a reference to Love Actually, which happens to be one of my favorite holiday films. Even if that particular sentiment is disingenuously expressed in it by a seedy, aging rocker.

This year was our son's second Christmas. And while he's not quite old enough yet to watch Love Actually (and won't be for a very long time), there are still plenty of other seasonal traditions which we can begin sharing with him. He doesn't quite understand all of them yet, but he is at least beginning to recognize the sights and sounds of the season. Apologies in advance for the preening parent moment, but the whole thing could not be more delightful.

After just laying around and gurgling during his first Christmas, this year we could see the spirit of the season begin to affect him, begin to take hold over him, as it does over most wee tykes when it comes around. He began to recognize the various signs of the holiday and the words for them joined his ever-expanding vocabulary. Sure, snowman came out as just "man" and he still insists on calling all deer (including that spunky one with the glowing red nose on TV) "dead deer." Perhaps one of our proudest moments as parents, though, was when we taught him to recognize the iconic visage of Santa Claus and to utter his signature catch phrase. Okay, so he only ever got "ho ho" out, even though we repeatedly reminded him that Santa actually says "ho ho ho," but still. We'll take it. At a certain point, he just started saying it of his own accord, without any prompting, whenever we saw an image of Santa anywhere. And we were proud.

Also, for the first time ever, he sat in Santa's lap, though merely for a moment before squirming down to the floor. Apparently, a lot of kids are afraid of Santa and detest sitting in his lap. Not our son. Not at all. After his brief encounter with the jolly bearded one, our son loitered in the vicinity for quite some time, repeatedly pointing from afar and telling us "ho ho." In case we had forgotten who we were looking at.

The lights. The trees. The stockings. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. He liked it all. And watching him experience it all, learn about it all, was one of the highlights of parenthood so far. It was amazing.

And I can't wait for next year.

Okay, fine, preening parent moment over, back to your regularly scheduled programming . . .

23 December 2009

Wild Thing

At last, our long, national nightmare is over. At least, the one going on inside my own home. After foisting the wee one off on his grandparents, my wife and I were able to go see a movie. In the theater. Sure, it might not sound that novel, but for relatively new parents, trust me, it is. And it was long overdue.

In my estimation.

The movie in question was quite possibly my most anticipated film of 2009. If not 2008. And 2007. I'm not sure when I first heard that Spike Jonze was directing a feature version of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, but it was definitely several years ago. It has been, in fact, seven whole years since Jonze's last film, Adaptation. Wild Things marks only his third film in a decade. Which is hard to believe, seeing as how he is such a singular visionary who has had a tremendous impact on the cinematic landscape. For me, anyway.

So, where do I begin? Well, honestly, everything about this film is awesome, from the fact that Jonze collaborated on the script with Dave Eggers to having Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs write original songs. Even the Arcade Fire music in the trailer sets a perfect tone for this beautiful, melancholic work. To me, what's truly magical about the film is that while it's a complete fantasy, it also manages to be the most raw, honest, and emotional film about what it actually feels like to be a child that I've ever seen. Yes, the film is full of melancholy and yet this does feel appropriate. Sometimes it sucks being a kid. And this is that rare piece of art that captures that feeling, those sentiments, perfectly.

And while it's not, strictly speaking, a kid's movie, I cannot wait to share it with my son. Every time I see the book in stores I want to get it, though I'm not sure at what age it would be optimal to introduce him to this story. This was one of my most checked-out library books as a kid, but I don't recall exactly when I first read it. The same goes for the film. In many ways, I feel I appreciate it more as an adult than I would have as a kid. Being a meditation on childhood more than anything else, it does kinda help to be able to reflect on your own childhood through this film, rather than being in the midst of it as you watch. That being said, I'm still excited about that first viewing with my son.

Between this and Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (don't get me started--that's an entire post in itself) and Up, 2009 has proven itself to be a truly landmark year for kid-centric movies. I hope this trend continues as these are exactly the types of films I want to expose my son to. Now, if I could only get someone to make a screen version of Dooly and the Snortsnoot, then we'd be all set.

In the meantime, before my son is fully indoctrinated to the world of Wild Things, the book and film, we have decked him out in a stylish Wild Things T-shirt. Because it's true--there is a wild thing in all of us. Sometimes we grow up and we forgot that. But thanks to this amazing film, it's something I won't soon forget. And I hope my son won't either.

Let the wild rumpus start . . .