Saturday, December 6, 2008

sad songs

So I was flipping channels while I was babysitting tonight, and I came across "Meet Me in St. Louis," the 1944 Judy Garland film. I hadn't seen it in years, but there was one scene that had always stuck firmly in my mind. I couldn't have told you the plot of this movie really, or the other things that happened, but I remembered with absolute clarity the scene where Judy Garland sings to her little sister, Tootie. The scene takes place near the end of the film and it's Christmas Eve and Judy Garland is wearing a red dress, and her face is beautiful in that soft, out of focus, 40s film star kind of way. Her baby sister is upset because the family is going to move away from St. Louis (something having to do with their father and financial stuff-again I don't really remember most of the movie), and Judy Garland sits with her by the window and sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Tootie cries while her sister sings and at the end of Tootie rushes downstairs and outside into the snow and proceeds to demolish all of the perfect little snow people that the family had built together. And I think I remember this scene so well, because it broke my heart in a way that perhaps no other film scene ever has.

Here's how sad it is. Until tonight I had no idea if the family actually moved or not. Turns out they stay and everyone is happy and joyous and merry. Yet despite the fact that I had seen the movie in its entirety once upon a time, the only thing I really remembered was how sad it was when Judy sings and Tootie cries. First of all, I don't think Judy Garland could sing a song without making it at least a little bit sad. And that's not a bad thing. Her voice, that voice, is so wonderful and memorable because every note sounds like a barely contained sob. And again, not a bad thing. She just sings in this way where you can't help but ache. And "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is one of the most beautifully sad songs ever written. And then you add snow and those adorable little snow people on top of that; and I couldn't really tell you why it makes me sad, but in this case it just does. Plus there's the whole Christmas thing and Tootie asking Judy if Santa will still be able to find them when they move and then the sight of this little, heartbroken girl literally kicking the crap out of those poor, defenseless snow people, and my God, you'd have to be made of stone not to at least get a little misty. And well tonight I was reduced to the same blubbering mess I was the first time I watched it.

And I think what makes it even more sad this time is that I can relate to Tootie. I'm about to move away from Charleston (at least for a little while), and just thinking about it makes me immensely upset. And unlike Tootie, I don't have Judy Garland to sing beautiful, sad, perfect songs to me or a little family of snowpeople to take out all of my feelings on. But there are moments when I really wish I did. But instead I'll just do like Judy says, muddle through somehow, and even though my heart may be broken, I'll find a way to have a merry, little christmas.

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