Sunday, December 11, 2011

[31 Holi-Days #11] The Magic of Unsolved Mysteries

A monster ahead of his time: some days, I'd like to eat my phone, too.

I took Rhea to the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens yesterday.  First things first: if you have any interest in the Muppets, do not hesitate to check this out in the month or so it has left to run.  It's informative, entertaining, and perfectly pitched in regard to just how far behind the curtain you're allowed to see.  There's enough behind-the-scenes to whet your curiosity, but not enough to ruin your enjoyment of the end product.  It's a great exhibit, and a great celebration of an amazing vision and body of work.

For Rhea, it was a no-brainer.  She lives and breathes the Muppets.  If one day she wakes to discover she's turned completely to felt, I'd barely register a surprise.  I'd have to figure out how to edge Walter out of the picture at that point, but I'm sure that could be accomplished.  Regardless, we'd been waiting for just the right time to head on out to Queens and take it all in, and yesterday was the day.  In addition to the exhibit, our entry fee yesterday entitled us to a theater screening of 1978's Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, a special that's as close to Rhea's heart as Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or (insert favorite here) is to yours.

In general (and to over-generalize), our little family of two works like this: Rhea is the idealist with the heart full of wide-eyed wonder, and I'm the sarcastic realist that keeps us safe and grounded.  This is as it all should be: said unique qualities give us quite the broad spectrum to work with when pooled.  So why, then, did I find myself getting a little choked up upon watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street for the first time in several decades?  Because eons ago, it saved my faith in the holiday.

I was probably about six or seven.  I'd reached that age where I'd naturally begun to question the world around me.  I'd always been a curious kind of kid, and that was intensifying with every passing year's worth of increased functioning and reasoning.  At the time, my family lived in an apartment.  Cue the unanswerable question: how does Santa drop off our presents when we don't have a chimney?  A potentially catastrophic query; thankfully, Christmas Eve on Sesame Street's story is hinged around just this sort of quandary.  To this day my mother - never a woman to mince words or over-hype something - refers to it as a godsend.

It wasn't the nostalgia of seeing the special again that made me choke up, as heartwarming as it was to revisit an old friend that I had no idea I'd missed so much.  I choked up near the end, at the realization that Christmas Eve on Sesame Street never actually answers the question.  Therein lies its genius: rather than simply fling a half thought out answer, it simply assures its audience that it's all right not to fully understand everything; that some great things do not require thorough explanation.

There's a core truth about the holiday season in there: sometimes, it's just fine not to ask so many questions that you gyp yourself out of the magic that surrounds you this time of year.  I'm not taking about blind faith, nor religious faith necessarily, and certainly not intelligent design and other such lunacy.  I'm talking about not being so sour or proof-driven that you refuse to let slightly magical things just happen sometimes, be it at the holidays or during the hottest week in August.

The message is a simple one, as applicable to adults as to the children to whom it was primarily pitched: chill, and just let the elves do their thing, wouldya?  Amen.

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