Thursday, December 10, 2009

Santa Claus and Scooby Doo, too

The Spirit of Christmas, 2004

The Spirit of Christmas was taken at a house located on a busy road not too far away from where I live. Each year they put these inflatable figures out on the lawn. Each year they have to come up with some new way of thwarting the teenagers who conspire to deflate the figures late at night.

If there’s anything sillier than these figure are in the first place, it’s the sad sight of them deflated on the ground in little red and green plastic puddles.

It seemed innocent enough when they put up the Santa figure. The next year they added the Mickey Mouse figure. Mickey Mouse?

The year after it was the Dallas Cowboy figure, which is also apparently meant to be a moose or some other animal. Maybe it’s because I don’t watch a lot of football anymore. But I don’t get the connection between the Dallas Cowboys and Christmas.

The next year they brought in the Grinch that Stole Christmas. Okay, I could see that one. The next year it was Frosty the Snow Man. That, too, made sense.

But then they brought in Scooby Doo. Yes, he is wearing reindeer antlers. But really, Scooby Doo?

Back in the 1950s, among the families we were close to was a Navy captain and his wife and their three daughters. The wife was the daughter of American missionaries. She’d grown up in Egypt and instilled in each of her daughters a piece of her own wanderlust. A desire to see the world also helped when it came time for the family to be uprooted to the various foreign ports where the Captain’s ship was based.

They once lived in Naples for several years. They loved it there. But the girls missed home around the holidays, so the parents would work doubly hard to make their Italian home into a little American home-away-from-home.

Part of the ritual of living as they did was to immerse themselves the local culture. In Naples, they found a little trattoria they loved. It was run by an elderly couple who took the American family in as if they were their own family. They bought gifts for the girls’ birthdays. They taught them how to cook authentic Italian meals. But as Christmas approached, the elderly couple couldn’t think of a way to help the girls to get over their holiday homesickness.

Then the old man got an idea. When the family was next there for dinner, just a couple of days before Christmas, the elderly couple insisted that the girls go out into the terrace behind the restaurant and see the special “American Christmas Lights” he had put up.

The girls raced to the back of the restaurant. As they passed through the kitchen they had visions of strings of colored lights strung over one of the olives trees in the garden, or maybe outlining the edges of the building.

Imagine their surprise when they got out to the terrace and found no strings of brightly colored lights, but rather a manger scene where the usual cast of characters—Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the Three Kings and assorted livestock—had been replaced by life-size figures of the only “American” characters the elderly restaurateur could find; namely Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

You have to give the old man points for trying.

1 comment: