All I Want for Christmas
What is most important to families? Is it a big house, fancy cars, up-to-date electronics, and expensive clothes? Or is it spending time together as a family? This is a situation many face today. Either one or both parents work long hours to provide the best for their children and never have time to be together.
Such is the case with the Harrisons. James, the father and sole breadwinner, is always busy with his toy business. Sure, they have the huge home and all the trappings money can buy, but wife Franny is disheartened because James is never home.
The Harrisons have four children: Stacy, 16, Jay, 15, Elliot, 11, and Reba, age seven. Though the kids appear happy and busy with their "toys" and friends, they still miss out on the importance of family time.
Reba is upset because her mom and dad fight all the time, and James never makes it to the children's events. The older ones take this in stride for they have dealt with his absence forever, but Reba as the youngest is distressed when James misses her Christmas dance recital.
Reba begs to visit her grandmother, whom she calls Oma. While Reba and Oma make cookies, Oma asks her what she wants for Christmas. She is surprised when she hears:
"Reba went silent looking down at the cookie dough. 'I want—I want God to fix my family.'
"'Reba, dear, what did you say?' Oma stopped to focus on the child.
“Oma touched her granddaughter's cheek. 'Oh sweetheart, I'm so sorry.'
“She looked up at her Oma and said, 'I want to help, but I don't know how.'
"'Well,' Oma said, 'God can do things we can't.'
"Reba quietly considered her grandmother's words. Not quite sure, she asked, 'You think He'll help us?'
“Oma said, 'Absolutely.' Reba carefully placed the cookie dough reindeer onto the baking sheet. She never asked God to grant a miracle. She wondered how she would even go about it."
Bolstered by Oma's faith, Reba is excited by the upcoming holiday and a "Daddy's Day Show-and-Tell" project in her class. When she begs James to go, he promises he will, though Franny is doubtful considering all the other things he's missed with their children.
The holidays draw near, and the family minus James decorate the house. James spends more time at work as his business sinks deeper into debt, and he becomes frustrated when a shipment he ordered is delayed, making things worse.
James surprises Reba and shows up at the school, bringing one of the many wooden toys he carves, which is a passion of his. Thrilled her has come, when he gets a phone call and steps into the hall to answer it, only to take off, leaving Reba embarrassed and hurt. To make matters worse, that evening Franny and James have a terrific argument that only upsets Reba more for she feels she is to blame for her parent's fighting.
Despondent and not knowing what to do, Reba crawls out of her bedroom window at night and runs to the church to go to Oma who is at a religious service, which they were all supposed to attend. Oma is surprised to see her youngest grandchild out at night, but worries when Reba confides in her about her parents’ arguing.
"'Tell me how to fix it, Oma.'
"'I'm afraid you can't fix their problems either, sweetheart.'
"Oma was aware of Pastor Phillips now standing within listening distance. She continued, 'There's only one person that can fix this, and that's God. The Bible tells us that when two or more ask for help in His name, it will not be denied.'
"Through her distress, Reba brightened a little. 'Oma, can we pray now and ask Him?"'
Pastor Phillips joins them in their prayer and then insists on driving Reba home, stating her parents must be worried sick—which they are. They arrive at the house and the police are there with everyone, happy she is found. Now that Reba is safely at home and tucked into bed, James and Franny have another horrendous argument, and James leaves, banging the front door shut. Somehow the slam of the door short-circuits the lights on the Christmas tree and the house quickly catches on fire! Luckily, they manage to sustain minor injuries but realize everything is gone.
What happens now? James, in his eagerness to save his business, has fallen behind on car payments to the vehicles, but also, the homeowner's insurance, leaving them with nothing. Of course, his ego keeps him from disclosing this information to Franny.
Where do they go? James checks them into a fancy hotel, spending time at the office advising Franny to go to the mall and get clothes and other necessities, but when Franny produces her credit cards, they are rejected. Can things get much worse?
Time drags on as they lose the little money remaining. Franny is angry and hurt at James for not telling her about his situation, and things become more tense. From bouncing around from one hotel to another, finally being forced to live in their car, they understand things can get worse, especially when CPS takes the kids away from Franny and James. Will they ever get back on their feet? Will they ever become a unit again? Can James pocket his pride and realize what is most important in life?
It is distressing to think a family could go from riches to rags overnight, but this scenario is not so far fetched. The question is why they didn’t seek help from Social Services or other available resources, rather than live in the car and go hungry. Was James' ego so powerful he wouldn't look to see what could be available to their family—especially with a wife and four children? Was this solution overlooked on purpose to demonstrate what could happen? Though a somber read, the ending compensates for the pain the family endures.