I actually had a really long anti-Christmas rant written already. I was going to complain about how Christmas is too commercialized, like I was some kind of wise man pointing out what everyone in the freaking civilized world already knows. But then I realized that I don't have a single useful thing to say that everyone hasn't heard a hundred times since Thanksgiving, and I decided to go another way and tell you why I had a good night.
Amazon has this cool service called Prime, the main feature of which is fast, free shipping all the time. But a lesser known side-benefit of this service is that you get access to a huge range of streaming video, and it's all free. So tonight, while trying to invent a reason to hang out with my family, I turned on the idiot box and started looking through free movies we could watch. At least that way, we would all be in the same room, and nobody would be hurling profanities (or at least the profanity would all come from the people on the television).
Then I noticed the funniest thing - a video called 'Crackling Fire.' This was not an action movie about a firefighter in Iraq. It was not a romance movie full of passion and drama. It was exactly what it said it was - a one-hour video of somebody's fireplace. I am not making this up. Someone filmed their fireplace for an hour and sold the video online.
I turned it on as a lark. I was laughing, wondering aloud what kind of moronic doofberry would pay for a video of a fireplace. I was only turning it on to mock the very idea - but something incredible happened.
My seventeen-year old son was transfixed. He ran around and turned off all the lights except the Christmas tree, then sat on the floor and proceeded to watch the fire burn. Or rather, the video of some other man's fireplace. And my daughter, who is a jaded sixteen-year-old who rarely has time to spend with any of us lower life forms, laid down on the floor to watch.
I was dumbstruck. This was insane! Who wants to watch a fireplace on television? Why not just film a fishtank for an hour? (And yes, I know that people do that. It's also lame.) I picked up the remote, intending to turn off this stupidity that had already gone too far, and everyone else in the family shouted me down. Knowing when I'm beat, and figuring it couldn't last too long, I left it on to listen to the crackling fire. On television.
I was wrong about it not lasting. It lasted the whole hour. We watched that stupid fire for a full hour, during which time we did something we hardly every do any more - we talked. We laughed and joked and enjoyed each other's company, and it blew my mind. I can't get all four of us around a table to play a game any more, but an electronic fireplace in a darkened room, and we're suddenly Little House On The Prairie.
That hour was one of the best Christmas memories I'll have. My kids (who watch Sons of Anarchy and play Assassin's Creed) asked me to tell them some of the stories I used to tell when they were young. Hell, I couldn't even remember these stories, and they were giddy as they recalled me telling them tales of The Shadow or Tarzan or Scrappy the Squirrel.
(Scrappy is an original creation, one my children used to love. In these stories, Scrappy goes to visit his two friends, John and Judy. Only I always messed up the names, and then my kids would correct me. 'Scrappy was off to see Ralph and Lydia-' 'No, Dad, John and Judy!' Then some dick would mess with the kids, and Scrappy would sort it out by throwing acorns at the bad guy. Scrappy was a bad-ass with an acorn, so the tales usually ended with the villain in intensive care after Scrappy embedded an acorn in his eyesocket and then the bully had permanent brain damage and spent the rest of his days crapping into a colostomy bag. God, no wonder my kids swear.)
I don't get Christmas spirit, or rather if I do, my Christmas spirit comes in a glass bottle and is usually at least 43% alcohol by volume. But I swear, that one ridiculous video of a popping fireplace has given me a better Christmas than I've had in years, and it wasn't even Christmas. I still insist that the idea of watching a fireplace on TV is a sad commentary on how much electronics have replaced actual experiences, but I also know that I'm going to be hunting for more fireplace movies, because while the fire was fake, the family was real. For that hour, my daughter wasn't hiding in her room texting her friends about how stupid her parents are. My son wasn't holed up somewhere listening to Social Distortion and reading magazines about knives. My wife wasn't frustrated with the mess in the house (which is caused largely by the kids, who for some reason walk in the house, drop their bags and coats, and then walk directly to their rooms and leave their crap in the living room). We were a family, and even better, we all wanted to be a family.
Fair warning, though - that crackling fire video has the weirdest thing. At about minute 42, some crazy classical music plays for a few minutes. We used it to tell a ghost story about haunted fireplace movies, but next time, I will look for a video that does not include random musical interludes. Because I want my family time again, and this time, I don't want to be interrupted by unexplained Tchaikovsky.