Tonight on ABC Charlie Brown's Christmas special will celebrate 50 years. This 30 minute cartoon has several milestones to commend it to the TV Hall of Fame. We know of Schultz's insistence on leaving the Biblical narrative in the script. He also introduced children and their parents to jazz music against the advice of those in the know. His refusal to use a "laugh track" was also well before its time. However, none of those things are as important to me as it is to TV historians.
You see this annual holiday tradition first aired during my family's last year together. I was eight years old when Charlie Brown premiered on our black and white TV. Before the next Christmas season began our home would be visited by strangers who were not as welcome as the jolly old elf driving 8 tiny reindeer. The first was a policeman who suddenly appeared at our door. In a few moments my father had packed a bag and had driven away. He would never step foot in our house again. I don't recall my parents ever speaking to one another after that day. A few days after the policeman had knocked on our door two more men came calling. This time my mother answered and after a brief conversation she went to her bedroom and closed the door. I would learn later that these two men had been dispatched to inform my mom she was no longer a member or welcome at our local church.
My only sibling was my elder brother. I'm not sure how the events of that year affected him. We never talked about it. I remember how it affected me. As a 9 year old with an absent father and a mom who worked outside the home to feed two boys and herself, I found myself watching Charlie Brown alone the next year. My world had been turned upside down, but at least Charlie Brown understood. I became emotionally tied to this round headed kid whose world seemed forever to kick him in the seat of his pants. Heck, even my dog looked like Snoopy.
So for me watching a Charlie Brown Christmas is a nostalgic trip to a happier time. A time when Christmas didn't mean deciding which parent's home to visit first on Christmas day, but when my parents would sit at the same table together. A time when dad would get up during the night and place an orange, a nut, and a candy cane in our tube socks that were pinned on the window sill. A time when I could always be sure to get a pack of jockey shorts and white socks under the tree. When our tree was dressed with popcorn and lead based tinsel tossed in thick bunches by my brother and me. My parents would sit on the green naugahyde divan with a cup of coffee as we would open the 1 toy that each of us would receive in a box marked "from Santa."
I am grateful for the many Christmas Eve's that Marilyn and I have put our boys to bed and quietly placed their presents under our tree. I am thankful that our boys never had to wonder which parent to visit first on Christmas Day. I am also thankful that we have been able to spoil our children with presents consisting of more than sox and underwear. I always wanted to give my family what I missed out on as a kid. Thank you Lord for that opportunity.
Don't take these moments for granted. Love and cherish your family and friends this Christmas and all year long. We cannot change the past but we have much we can do to insure a better tomorrow. Merry Christmas!