There’s Always Tomorrow

In an effort to stave off burn-out from burning the candle at both ends, I am taking it easy tonight with a showing of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. All of those holiday classics take me back to R.J. McNulty School, to the day before Christmas vacation. We were ushered into the cafeteria where we would sit down for a viewing of holiday films – the stop-motion animated ones, the religious ones (before the holidays went all non-denominational), the silly ones and the serious ones – and it was our final celebratory time together before vacation. On those days I was always torn – thrilled at the prospect of getting out of school, but suddenly slightly dismayed at the prospect of leaving my school mates – those who had become friends over such formative years.

The films played on an ancient projector, and every once in a while one would need to be taped back together, the break a chance to talk and gossip and wait for some rowdy kid to be sent back to class. We had memorized them all by sixth grade, but even as we were on the cusp of becoming too cool and jaded for such childishness, we embraced their sentimentality – and for our last year in grade school I think we all clung a little tighter to that day of holiday fare. I distinctly remember being near the back of the large room with my class, a couple of the boys sitting on the tables in front of the wall, our legs swinging over the edge, and looking at the dim sea of kids and faces that would never be all together in that room again, watching these Christmas movies for the final time. I felt at once separate and a part of something – a feeling that’s occurred too-few times since then. As mean and bitchy as I was, even back then, I still recognized the import of that moment, the fleetingness of it, and I already mourned how quickly it was coming to an end. We were saying good-bye to our childhoods. The songs of Christmas, on that day at McNulty School, changed into songs of sadness for me ~ ‘Silent Night’, ‘The First Noel’, ‘O Holy Night’ ~ songs that signified a simpler time, a happier time, a time that was over.

When I went away to college, many years after the sixth grade, I thought of going back to McNulty, of slipping into the cafeteria and seeing if they still played those films. I never did (mostly for fear I’d be arrested), but every year when I see ‘Rudolph’ on television, I think back to those days, and it makes me both sad that they are gone, and glad that they once were.

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