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Posts Tagged ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

The morning was bright and clear with dashes of sunshine stroking my life. Decorations were scattered about our rambling abode; angels rested on high, books stacked within reach, and there were even a few batches of cookies stored in decorative tins. A rare December day with no meetings on the calendar, a tank full of gas and a list of wonders that I wanted to see, so, off I went with a purpose in mind.

My first stop was to see an exhibit about one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life,  at the Elmhurst History Museum. Alas and alack, I arrived to discover it would not open for several more hours, so . . . I promptly reversed my plans and headed, first, to the Wilder Park Conservatory. The Conservatory is an oasis of growth and warmth, history and soulful nourishment nestled into an award-winning park in the western suburbs.

Opening the door, a couple I have known were exiting, two charming grandsons toddling out with them. These two youngsters informed me that there were “fishes” and “elves” inside.

Well, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but, elves here and there and everywhere in the conservatory, along with this poinsettia tree and a cheerful display of the plants all around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In need of a “cuppa” of something warm and a bit of bite to eat, I headed to the north end of town and Brewpoint Coffee and Roastery where I had a tasty blueberry scone and a hot mocha (called Sacagawea).

As luck would have it, on a day filled with good luck, a perfect parking spot awaited me smack dab in the center of town. Like many suburbs around Chicago, parking is at a premium, so I quickly signaled my intent to park, claiming my curbside cradle. My first stop was The Pink Elephant, a well stocked charity shop. I chatted for quite sometime with a woman I did not know as we good-naturedly tried to talk each other into buying something we did not need. Do you ever do that? As a result, this caroler sang her way into my arms and followed me home.

I stopped at a new store, Bread and Butter, where I had purchased a darling pair of earrings a few weeks earlier. It is such a cute shop and the owner, a enterprising young woman, is as delightful as her products. I left with these cute stocking caps meant for bottles that Rudolf absconded with to keep his antlers warm.

My final stop, which was my first on what became a delightful circuitous route, was a tour of the exhibit at the Elmhurst History MuseumIt’s a Wonderful Life. Posters and “stills” from the movie lined the museum’s wall with informative narratives describing scenes, props, biographical information and other tidbits of knowledge about a beloved movie.

Included in this exhibition are photos and information about Elmhurst’s own Christmas traditions and photos of the city around the time depicted in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I did not take many photos, in part to maintain the integrity of the exhibition, and in part to lure you into the museum if you live in the area or are visiting. It is truly worth the visit and is within a short walking distance of not only the conservatory, but, of the renowned Elmhurst Art Museum.

Here are two characters from the movie, the original Bert and Ernie, and another character you might recall, Toots, with her earrings dangling and her infamous red coat.

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Calla lilies and greens in vaseChristmastide flowed gently here on the Cutoff, and we now find ourselves at Epiphany. I’m sure the three “wiseguys” would not have travelled through so many feet of snow and double digit, negative, temperatures to bring their honorable gifts. I started this post nearly a week ago, and here I am, revising it yet again before it goes out on the virtual waves of blogdom.

Our Christmastide activities were somewhat restricted as Tom recovered from surgery, however, we were gifted with more time to enjoy our decorations, holiday music,  movies and the gentle solitude for much of the season.

Personally, I have had more time to read mid-afternoon, teacup in hand, a Christmas cookie swiftly disintegrating into crumbs down my sweater. Somehow, the trappings about me seemed softer, my angel collection sweeter, and the smallest moments crisper.

I had time to peruse my collection of Christmas books at a more leisurely length, enjoying lush volumes with holiday decorations and traditions, reading the treasures of children’s books accrued, and revisiting longtime favorites, such as “One Christmas”, Truman Capote’s memoirs of a childhood Christmas and Philip Van Doren Stern’s “The Greatest Gift”, upon which my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”,  was based.  If you haven’t discovered either of these gems, you must put them wherever all good book lists go, perhaps in abeyance for next December.

M. C. Beaton kept me entertained, as only she can, with a light Hamish MacBeth Christmas mystery, “A Highland Christmas”,  and I managed to rip through Alan Bennett’s delicious novella, “The Uncommon Reader”, which was a Christmas gift. Have you read this charming and funny story about how the Queen upsets the well-ordered royal apple cart when she starts spending all her time reading? Not known for literary pursuits, her staff, the prime minister, and the Bishop of Canterbury don’t know what to make of her and measures are, um, taken.

I’ve also enjoyed Bess Streeter Aldrich’s collection of short stories, “Journey Into Christmas”, which I first discovered through Nan’s blog, Letters from a Hill Farm. You can find her post about it here. Do wander around her blog where she writes about books, poetry, life on their farm, and often posts the best recipes.

Journey into Christmas

“Journey Into Christmas” was a present one Christmas. I enjoyed some of the stories then, but this year I delved deeper into this collection of homespun stories of simpler times and the soul of Christmas. I was so moved by one of Bess Aldrich’s stories about a family’s hard times at Christmas on the prairie and how the characters made “the best of it” that off to the library I went on New Year’s Eve day to check out her novel, “A Lantern in her Hand”. I ended up returning home with four of Aldrich’s books, which include two volumes of her short stories and essays.

The novel, “A Lantern in her Hand” is based on Aldrich’s own family stories of homesteading on the Nebraska prairie. It $(KGrHqQOKosFG-BUOBtpBR4)r(3JIw~~60_35brings to mind the Little House books, which you know how much I love. As I sit here, finishing up a post that has taken a pilgrimage of time to publish, I am warm and safe in our home amid this deep freeze we, and much of the United States, are in. Our shelves and freezer are full. We have any number of ways of communication at our fingertips, one of which I am employing right now. These are factual stories of a time that seems simpler, but, of course, really were not. I can only imagine the loneliness that must have hung over so many during the devastating winters of the early 1870’s, and truly admire the determination and pure grit that came to be known as the pioneering spirit.

I’ve not minded this gentle flowing Christmastide, with my Tom and my books and my comfort. I’ll hang on to it for a few more days.

Have you read any stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich?

Do you have a favorite or new Christmastide read?

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Did you know that the names Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street were rumored to be plucked from the iconic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Do you remember Bert and Ernie, the policeman and the taxi driver of fictional Bedford Falls? Do you know the famous Muppets, Bert and Ernie? I adore both sets of buddies; partners in adventures and friendship and it really matters not if one set inspired the other. They make me grin and feel good and are a reminder of friends sticking together, no matter what, like setting up a honeymoon for George and Mary or involving a rubber ducky on Sesame Street.

The Sesame Street Bert came to mind yesterday as I headed home from the library, listening to our local public radio station, WBEZ, where a discussion aired on Rick Kogan’s program about a news segment exposing the deportation of some seventy (70) pigeons from a Chicago neighborhood. In short, a Chicago alderman had arranged for an Indiana farmer to net and remove pigeons from his ward, stirring up questions of whether or not this was legal, what would happen to the pigeons, who paid for the pigeon transport, the crossing state lines, etc.

Pigeons can be problematic. If one lives or works or visits Chicago, or any metropolis, he or she is a target for random pigeon poop; a plop on the shoulder or, horrors, one’s hair, is a risk one takes walking in the Big City. A short sit upon a park bench is enough to attract a flash mob of  pigeons, cooing in unison, bobbing about for morsels of bread, popcorn, or whatever crumbs may congregate in a coat pocket or purse corner. There are even monetary fines in some places for feeding pigeons on street corners, by golly by gee, but a posse herding pigeons like a Wild West show seems a bit drastic from my dove cote here on the Cutoff.

The radio segment finished as I tossed my mail into the drive-up box. As I headed home,  I found myself humming “Doin’ the Pigeon”, thinking about Bert and Ernie, and Bert and Ernie, how pigeons stick together, and of how, when our girls were little, Jennifer, Katy and I would bob our heads and pump our knees and dance around the living room, doing the Pigeon.

C’mon, folks. How about clicking on the video above, sit through the pigeon clip, and do the Pigeon with Bert. C’mon. You can do it!

Bert and Ernie, from It's a Wonderful Life. Image courtesy of Wikepedia

Bert and Ernie, from It’s a Wonderful Life. Image courtesy of Wikepedia

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Five. Four. Three. Two. One. . .

. . . and we are ON the air!

Image from the Pheasant Run site

A birthday gift from Tom was tickets to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Pheasant Run in St. Charles. Last year, we saw a screening of the movie at the historic Tivoli Theater on my birthday, which was a treat for this fan beyond measure, until Saturday night, that is.

This was a live production. A play. A radio production inside a play, that is.

What fun it was to be in the audience as actors performed a radio broadcast of one of my most favorite holiday stories. I can’t begin to expound on the talents of the actors. They sang and they danced. They played multiple parts and worked the sound effects in between.

The  station manager was also the radio announcer as well as the despicable Henry Potter, the angel Joseph, and even Nick the bartender.

The pianist extraordinaire acted as Uncle Billy, Mr. Gower, and the celestial Clarence, the angel who saves George Bailey. He also gave voice to a host of others, sometimes jumping from one character to another while playing the piano.

Violet was as sassy a the movie character and she was Ma Bailey without missing a beat.

Mary Hatch and George Bailey. Well, I can’t say enough good things about the actors who played them, flawlessly. I smiled when they smiled and I cried when they cried. Just when I thought I couldn’t enjoy “It’s a Wonderful Life” more, I did.

I thought about the play and about radio programs on our long ride home last night. I thought about my favorite Saturday pastime of listening to Garrison Keillor on “The Prairie Home Companion”, anticipating Keillor’s imminent retirement in 2013. It is not just the end of his show that I thought about, but the idea of radio shows and the part they played in our national and international character for decades. The radio dramas that played  in everyday family lives.

Tom recalled his grandparents tuning in to soap operas in their Ohio farming community each day. My mom did the same ironing in the kitchen. My dad  loved the suspense of “The Shadow” and my Uncle Joe tried to talk me into naming my Pinto the “green hornet”.

Well, I digress, as I often do. Wandering and wondering – and filled with contentment at an evening well acted.

(Thanks, Tom, for the present.)

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Yuletide carols are being sung on the radio. White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney (aunt of gorgeous George) has been airing on the television, when It’s a Wonderful LIfe isn’t, that is, and three pounds of fudge is cooling in the pan. It’s in an undisclosed location, so I’m not tempted to taste it.

So why is it 50° and raining cats and dogs?

We mumble and grumble here in the midwest, but, we like our Christmases frosted like a Currier and Ives illustration. Come December, we expect to be trudging through parking lots in our boots and mittens and scarves with a tall, decaf, skim, peppermint mocha waddling around in the cup holder of the shopping cart. The cart slips. We slip. The mocha slips. How else do we casually get to lick the whipped cream off the lid? Really. (Of course, we tell the barista just a little whipped cream, wink, wink. It’s a special language between him and us, if you know what I mean.)

Ah, the rain has stopped. I best take advantage of the lull and run to the grocers. I need buttermilk for the Ethel cookies, dates for the pinwheels, and dishwashing liquid for the mess I’m about to make. Instead of Jingle Bells, I’ll just ho ho ho a few lines of Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.

What weather-related son are you humming to today?

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The color of dawn

I tried to catch the sunrise, in my new North Face boots and my old, black-hooded coat, which was covering my pajamas – and lack of common sense.  Tom gave me that look of  ” you’re not really going out like that right now, are you?”. ha! Of course I was. 19° was no barrier for this pajama clad gal – not when there was a sunrise to capture.

Of course, I could no more capture the sunrise than George Bailey could lasso the moon, but, I wanted to try. I wanted to be able to show it to you, for it was so very lovely and brilliant and hopeful as it spanned the horizon and tickled the trees and announced the arrival of yet another day.

Not to be thwarted, I walked around a bit, in the bitter cold, looking for deer damage.  I saw these tracks on the driveway. Aha! A few deer and Antler Man had been out and about and left their imprints in the snow.

I love the color of dawn and snow. I have no color name for me to call it, just an emotion I suppose.

How do you describe your dawn, wherever you are, be it cold or hot or in between?

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Poster by Jason Moody

 

 

One of my all-time favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I’m sure I have seen it dozens of times on the television and I even have a DVD of it. It is a fitting backdrop for baking Christmas cookies or sitting in front of a crackling fire. “Hee haw”, “hot dog” and the notion of an angel getting his wings every time a bell rings are synonymous with the movie. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, as the selfless, small town hero who discovers what it really means to have lived a life well led when he reaches despair is one of my favorite roles and his rescue by Clarence, an unlikely looking angel whose chance to finally get his wings comes one dark, wintry night is the story of every man and woman who come to feel they wish they had never been born. Who wouldn’t want to be saved by Clarence?

It is one thing to watch a favorite movie in the comfort of one’s home, quite another to see it on the big screen in a renovated theater. The scenes are funnier, the faces indeed larger than life, and the mood brighter or darker than on the family room couch.

We got to the Tivoli when the box office opened and went in to quickly claim our seats, having heard that the theater fills up quickly. (It was a sold out showing.) We sat down and discovered this in front of us. Fortunately, the reindeer ears were soon removed. They were just a prop used to help friends find each other.

I am not affiliated with, nor know about, the Sharing Connections Furniture Bank. It seems like such a wonderful organization, however, and the proceeds of the day were going to the organization. Imagine, a fine group of folks who work to raise funds and furniture so that those in need will have a table and chairs, or a crib for the baby to sleep in? Things we take for granted but that are real needs in our own communities. What better movie to tie into such an organization; of a man who selflessly helps his town of Bedford Falls all his life, and they, in turn, help him in his hour of need.

Foreclosures and greed, wickedness and, too, kindness to others are themes that repeat themselves throughout time, don’t they? Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Sunday in such a lovely place on such a cold, cold day reminded me, once again, of how many are struggling this season to just pay the bills and make ends meet, or are homeless and alone in truth or in spirit. Maybe that is why I found tears in my eyes as the movie I know so well came to an end.

The Tivoli was opened in 1928. Just before the Great Crash and Depression. It, along with several other theaters in the area we live in, have been brought back to their original splendor in recent years and serve as hubs in their communities for movie enjoyment, as well as places for benefits. I think that this is a good thing; it brings people to town, provides entertainment, and sometimes a venue for charitable organizations.

We were entertained before the movie by a talented organist. Don’t you love theaters where the organ rises to the stage for some community singing before the feature begins?

So, that’s how it goes. It was a wonderful day with a lot of beauty around me, especially my indulgent family who are my own Clarences, and it is, is it not, really, a wonderful life? By-the-way, the poster above of the Tivoli is one of a series done by our very talented son-in-law, Jason.

The ornately refurbished interior.

 

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