Episode opens with a shot of the Stone family Christmas tree. We see the living room in the midst of holiday preparation. Donna is on a ladder hanging holiday cards on a ribbon above the fireplace (more on this later). As Donna is making final adjustments the phone rings. She goes to answer it and her creation falls apart.
Mary and Jeff enter and are full of concerns about gift exchanges with their friends. Their concerns seem to focus around who got gifts for whom and how much was spent. Donna is frustrated by their materialism.
The paper boy comes by and is clearly expecting a tip or gift. Donna gives him a fruitcake and he leaves unimpressed.
Alex comes in and asks Donna where the gift for his head nurse is. Donna confesses that she forgot and will pick something up later. Alex leaves with a box of other gifts Donna assembled for his colleagues.
The laundryman stops by and lingers expectantly. Donna gives him a fruitcake and his face registers displeasure.
Donna is clearly feeling overwhelmed by the demands of the holiday. The mailman comes by and scowls at his fruitcake.
Donna goes to the store to get the last minute gift for Alex. The store is packed and people are pushing and shoving. It is clear people don’t care what they buy as long as they buy something.
She goes to the hospital to drop off the gift for Alex. She describes the scene at the store to him. She is disgusted by the state of Christmas. Charlie, the hospital custodian, comes in and laments that Christmas has been taken from the children. Donna hears the ring of truth in that statement.
She goes to the children’s wing to wish the kids there a Merry Christmas. She finds the wing void of any holiday adornments. She asks the nurse if anything is being done for the children. The nurse doesn’t know. Donna goes through the entire hospital hierarchy to try and figure out who usually does something for the children. It is finally revealed that it is the custodian, Charlie, who has arranged the holiday celebration for more than 30 years. He confesses that though he has had help in past years, no one has stepped forward to help him this year. Donna offers to step in.
Back home Mary and Jeff are upset that Donna will spending Christmas Eve at the hospital and they will have to wait until morning to open their presents.
At the the hospital Donna is all smiles as she decorates a tree and makes things nice for the kids. Charlie comes in and plays Santa and the kids are thrilled. Alex, Mary, and Jeff surprise Donna by joining the festivities and bringing some of their own gifts to share with the sick children. The Stones give Santa a present. Alex begins singing Silent Night and everyone joins in. Donna looks happy. Christmas makes sense again.
Christmas should be about sharing and being with loved ones. Not about running around like crazy person and spending tons of cash.
It feels a bit strange to be writing about Christmas in October, though I am sure there are holiday items already on display somewhere. Living in the Haight, I am deliciously shielded from mainstream retail establishments. However, this topic is one that is near and dear to my heart and one of have actually commented on before.
I have such conflicted thoughts about the holidays. I fear I sometimes come off as Scrooge-like in my distaste for many of the modern-day practices. This is however is not accurate. I actually love Christmas, it’s just that my ideal holiday is a much more simple version than the one that is generally practiced.
If I were to design my perfect Christmas, this is how it would go down. Please understand that this is pure fantasy. At this time I don’t exactly have the means to make it happen.
My perfect Christmas would take place in a large, old farmhouse somewhere in northern New England. It would have many small bedrooms, a massive kitchen, at least one fireplace, and lots of cozy sitting areas. I would rent this house for the holiday week. I do not want to own this house: been there – done that. My husband and I would be there, my parents and brother, his mom, his sister, his brother, our sister-in-law, our gorgeous niece; hopefully aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends who are as dear as family. In this place, no store-bought gifts are allowed. Gifts of baked goods and homemade goodies are welcome and appreciated. The focus of my Christmas is being together and slowing down. Meals will be plentiful and prepared together. We will linger long at the table and sip wine. There will be board games, puzzles, sledding, and long,long talks. There will be mandatory viewings of classic holiday films: It’s A Wonderful Life, the original Miracle On 34th Street, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas. I am tempted to ban any movie not filmed in black and white. The idea is to catch up with those dearest to you and really connect.
My frustration with the holidays comes from having to run around everywhere, go to too many mandatory functions, buy gifts for people who need nothing, and receive gifts I have no place to put and, frankly, don’t really want. I don’t want stuff. I just want to enjoy my loved ones, slow down, and appreciate all we already have.
Side note: I love Donna’s Christmas card display. So simple and lovely. I am a big supporter of Christmas cards and I think I will steal this.
Plan Of Action
For now, I will suck it up and participate in the expected rigmarole. Be warned: I am saving my money and one day I will have MY Christmas. Sorry retail chains, that will be a bad Christmas for you.