They always start when I’m decorating the tree. I’ve got the ornament box out. I’ve poured myself some fat-free low-cal organic egg nog, and I turn the flat screen on for some Christmas music, and there it is, the first of them, the weepy-every-year-at-this-time-traditional Christmas movies. It’s 4 in the afternoon, and it’s as dark as 9 at night, as I try to ignore them. That’s impossible.

First it’s Clarence the angel’s voice and that of what they want us to think is God. I have it all memorized now. They talk about George Bailey, this guy down on earth who is having problems. I know I’m into it when I break the first ornament, because I’m trying to watch the screen and hang bulbs at the same time.

Those of us old enough to have voted for Harry Truman know all the lines by heart, even though they say that now college kids watch it on their laptops in the dorms. I’m told that just like us, they applaud Clarence the angel (Henry Travers) and hiss at Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore, who spoke all of his lines without moving from his chair. What the kids don’t know is that’s because Lionel was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis. We know that, but we still hate him.

So finally I sit down with my organic egg nog and popcorn, and surrender to the mesmerizing drug of nostalgia. On my embarrassingly super big flat screen, it’s almost like I’m back in the old Melba movie palace in 1946, munching popcorn in the front row. We really showed up there to see a “Don Winslow of the Navy” serial and a Tom and Jerry cartoon, but first we had to sit through the movie. Nobody knew what it was going to be. It was a Jimmy Stewart movie, that’s all it was. Then suddenly, it was something else, and it’s something else today all these years later, when everyone in it but the kids are dead.

So after crying in my nog at the “Zuzu’s petals” bit, I’m ready to go back to the tree. No, it isn’t going to go like that, because there’s number two: “The Bishop’s Wife.” It opens pretty much the same way except without God’s voice. We just float in over Manhattan, and suddenly there’s Dudley, the angel, walking among the liberals and conservatives in the snow.

Cary Grant’s the angel now. He’s younger and more handsome than Clarence and instead of a wet nightshirt, he’s wearing what appears to be a Brooks Brothers top coat. Like you, I love Cary and I love this movie. Our daughters went to the same girl’s school in Los Angeles. He used to wave to me from his car, but he never helped me across the street the way he does with the blind man in the opening sequence here.

Oh! There’s Monty Woolley as Professor Wutheridge. Did you know that Monty went to Yale with Cole Porter? No, you didn’t.

This is Wutheridge, who bought the ugly little tree and whose glass of port the angel kept filling up. I remember seeing that when it opened and how thrilled I was at that trick. The magic of movies. There’s Loretta Young who had a baby with Clark Gable and kept it a secret for 30 years. More movie magic.

I stay with this one as the evening grows darker. I switch to wine now and some pita bread with hummus. As Dudley the angel performs more magic tricks, I’m back in the Shenandoah Theatre six blocks away. My mother was on the night shift at the nursing home and gave me money to go to the movies. She was home before I was and worried to death. I had sat through it twice.

The crawl says that “Holiday Inn” with Bing Crosby is on next, but that’s not a real Christmas movie. Nobody ever cried at Bing and Fred Astaire dancing together. It also adds that “Miracle On 34th Street” will be on later, but I think I’ll watch “Bad Santa” with Billy Bob Thornton instead. It’s hilarious and evil, but I’m tired of crying and I’ve run out of organic egg nog and wine. Time for organic herbal tea and animal crackers. I love Christmas.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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