Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On Grandparents, Family Relationships, and "Home Alone"

My granddad used to love “Home Alone.” According to family stories, he scoffed at the idea of the film but, when forced to see it with grandkids it became one of his favorite films. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. All my life I remember him watching either Westerns and War Films, or “Looney Toons” shorts. “Home Alone” is squarely in the category of a cartoon.

At least, it is a cartoon for that last act, a mere 20 minutes or so. The rest of the film focuses more on an important issue: reconciliation. This is what makes “Home Alone” such a wonderful Christmas film. It is all about families learning to accept and love each other in spite of their imperfections. Let’s face it. Kevin is a jerk of a kid. In spite of how slighted he feels by his family, (before they go and leave him home alone as they fly half way around the world!) he is the one who needs to learn how to get along. In the parallel story of the scary old man, he gets to see what can happen when families don’t work at loving each other.

Christmas is all about reconciliation. God took initiative to pave a way for mankind to again be in a relationship with Him. Christmas is a reminder that family requires a lot of work and sacrifice. We don’t just maintain relationships because we are biologically connected.

Today would have been another one of my grandparent’s 89th birthday. My mom’s mom passed away less than a week shy of that milestone. Her case is a story of how easy it is to lose that connection through no ill will. I never knew her as well as any of my other grandparents. She was a very private, retiring person who didn’t seem to need many friends and didn’t pursue family the way a lot of women do in their later years. What I did know indicated a fascinating person, whom I wish I would have taken more initiative to know. She did things like grow Bonsai trees. She taught her daughters the Bible in a way that many seminarians manage to avoid. She gave all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren book embossers. (It is no coincidence that all her descendants are avid bibliophiles.)

If you have a tradition of watching this film around Christmas, don’t just laugh at the slapstick and tear up at the reunions. When the credits role, go connect with your family. In this brave new world there is no such thing as half a world away anymore.

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