By Pamela Brownstein
Like any good second grade teacher, my mother had acquired over the years a library overflowing with classic children’s books. Rediscovering all these books has been so rewarding — especially when I find the worn pages of a beloved book that once sat on a shelf in my childhood bedroom — and I can’t wait to share them with my young son.
Recently, my dad sent me a box that was filled with books about the holidays. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa are all represented, but the majority are Christmas books. There are several interpretations of “The Night Before Christmas;” there’s Tomie de Paola’s lovely “The Legend of the Poinsettia;” there are multiple books made up of stories, poems and carols; and, of course, there is the Dr. Seuss classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
I read it to Wolfe the other night, and felt ashamed that I’d almost forgotten the lyrical genius of the famous children’s author. More than that, I realized how much the timeless story still applies to life today (unfortunately).
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the Grinch (because maybe you were raised on a rural commune in Canada and have been out of touch with popular culture for the past 20 years), it is about the Grinch, a curmudgeony character who lives alone high on a mountain and plots to foil the merriment and joy of the Whos who live in Whoville down below. He dislikes fun and singing and presents. But, in the end, he comes to realize the spirit of Christmas and “the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!” And the Whos welcome him into their homes and it’s a happy ending.
What I take from this story, and how it applies to modern day, is that often the dissatisfaction of one person can ruin an otherwise pleasant experience for so many people.
This past weekend, I felt that Grinches were out in full force. On Friday night my girlfriends and I went out to a nice dinner to celebrate the holidays. We were in high spirits and had a delicious meal, but our server left something to be desired. She was curt and hurried and not friendly in the slightest. Although we did enjoy ourselves, her attitude put a damper on our evening.
Then Saturday afternoon, my husband and I attended our first opera, Verdi’s “Aida” at the USCB Center for the Arts via the MET: Live in HD. It was an amazing experience, very touching and elaborate and emotional. The quality of the big screen HD adds to the drama, and the sound of the voices filled the auditorium. But I guess the sound was too much for one person who complained it was too loud, so during the second act, the sound man turned down the volume, and the effect wasn’t the same. More people complained that the volume was too low, so by the final acts, the sound was restored and it magnified the dramatic conclusion. My point is, because one person complained, the experience for the rest of us was compromised, even if only slightly. (There’s actually a line in the story: “That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!”) How appropriate.
With the stress of the holiday season, I know it’s easy to be bitter or upset or sad. But it’s the time of year when most people want to enjoy themselves, so if you find yourself displeased or in an unpleasant mood, please keep it to yourself and don’t ruin these special moments for the rest of us.