Somewhere well into the wee hours of a Christmas in the not-nearly-distant-enough past, as the adults in my family labored to finish with the wrapping of presents, the curling of ribbon, the printing of tags, the arranging of the under-tree tableau, and the distributing of stocking goodies for the children sleeping under my roof, my mother told me a story.
She recalled a moment from her early years, when she was as yet unhardened against the brute, grasping drudgery of the season, a drudgery only highlighted by the relentless invocation of the cheery Christmas Spirit™ — now brought to you by Amazon, but then by Montgomery Ward, the department store that anchored the downtown shopping district of our small city in the snowy east. Perhaps she had ventured forth into the slush and chill to buy me one or two of the Star Wars action figures I had vigorously circled in the store’s thudding tome of a catalog. But whatever the reason for her going forth, as she began the return journey up the long hill that led from downtown to our house, she thought miserably to herself, “Christmas is never not coming.”
My mother is all sweetness and generosity, the sort whose greatest joy is to have all her family gathered together and getting along, and if at all possible, singing. She has no truck with cynicism, sarcasm, or mopery. She is not given to complaint, self-pity, or even the weary shrug of resignation when faced with onerous duty (the one that so often gets me through). And yet, even she echoed, in her despairing way, the Grinch’s great wish to “find a way to stop Christmas from coming.”
What did the Grinch hate about Christmas? The noise. The intrusion of other people into his little world. In particular, the intrusion of other people’s kids, blowing their Who-hoovers and banging their gardinkas. You know, like the rest of us — convinced of our divine right to live life on our own terms, and resenting all forces which seek to demonstrate otherwise.
As of this writing, The Grinch is the number one movie in America. But if the trailer is any indication, this Grinch is a sociopath, a guy who relishes meanness. He’s not like us. He’s a lame cartoon. And in that case, why should we care whether or not he ever comes to terms with that great and terrible truth: that Christmas is never not coming?
Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas is playing at the Old Globe Theater through December 29.