As I’ve mentioned before, Autistic people need routines. Because of my Asperger’s Syndrome, a change in a television lineup can cause anxiety to a degree. For example, right now, when I write during the day, I generally have the television on low for some background noise. I keep it tuned to channels where there are shows that I’ve already seen. Because of my audiographic memory, I already know what’s happening, so I don’t need to pay attention, and the bit of noise helps me relax. However, usually starting just after Halloween, they change the lineup and put Christmas movies on. And to make matters worse, they aren’t even good Christmas movies. So when that happens each year, I actually feel anxiety at the change and how it breaks up my routine.
So for today’s Throwback Thursday, I want to talk about my favorite childhood holiday movies. When I was a kid, around October, there were a few nighttime movies (called specials back then) that were themed for the holidays that I just loved, so I didn’t mind the interruption to my routine. I couldn’t wait each year for Fat Albert’s Halloween Special and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (In fact, I loved the Charlie Brown specials that were peppered throughout the year for each holiday.) And I absolutely adored those Christmas specials that featured the claymation characters, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. (I even had a Frosty the Snowman story LP.)
But my favorite set of holiday specials were those that featured the character Addie Mills. These specials included Addie and the King of Hearts for Valentine’s Day, The Easter Promise for Easter, The Thanksgiving Treasure (sometimes called The Holiday Treasure) for Thanksgiving, and The House Without a Christmas Tree for Christmas. They were TV movies based on books of the same titles by Gail Rock.
In these movies, a young girl named Addie Mills (played by Lisa Lucas) lived with her father (played by Jason Robards) and grandmother (played by Mildred Natwick) in Nebraska during the 1940s. In each of them, there is usually some conflict between Addie and her father, and the grandma is caught in the middle. I liked these stories because like Addie, I, too, lived with my grandma. And I liked them because they were set just post the Great Depression era, and because I lived with my grandparents, I always heard their childhood stories about that time. And I also liked them because they were just good storylines.
But the reason I loved these movies the most had absolutely nothing to do with the characters, or the setting, or the plots. The thing I loved most about these movies was the minute and a half opening. In each one, a woman, the grown up Addie Mills, told us that she was grown and moved away now, but when she was a child, she lived in this house… And while she spoke, we could see a pair of hands assembling a house made of construction paper. And by the time she was done speaking, the construction paper house morphed into her real house and the story began. The opening was the same for all four movies. You can see the transformation here:
When those movies came on, I ran like my bed was on fire to get as close to the TV as I could. (Back then, we weren’t allowed to get too close. I’m sure they thought the radiation would stunt our growth or something.) I watched ever so closely as that paper house was assembled. And as soon as the first commercial came on, I ran to my room and brought back all my art supplies and tried to create a perfect version of my own house for the duration of the movie.
Then I got frustrated because my paper house did not nearly resemble my actual house as closely as the one on television did. (I was barely six years old. I had no idea that the TV artist actually worked from a photo.)
The Thanksgiving Treasure was about Addie befriending a lonely, old man who was actually the hated enemy of her father because the pond the man dug for Addie’s father leaked. I won’t give away the end in case you are inclined to go get the DVD and watch it yourself, but I will warn you that it’s a tearjerker.
Talk to me: What was your favorite childhood holiday movie? Do you start decorating for Christmas just after Thanksgiving or well into December? Do you get irritated that stores start stocking Christmas merchandise around the end of summer?