Jackie Gingrich Cushman

We began getting ready for Christmas the first Friday of December with the purchase of our Christmas tree from our children’s elementary school.

The tree went up the next day in the center of the windows in the back of our living room. My husband carried all the Christmas boxes down from the attic and our children Maggie and Robert and I spent the weekend decorating the tree and the inside of our house while my husband strung the outside lights.

While unpacking one of the boxes, I ran across one of my favorite movies - “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney (who my mother keeps reminding me was George’s aunt) and Vera-Ellen.

The following Friday night, Maggie and Robert opted for watching “White Christmas,” and we have watched it five more times since.

The story about friendship, service, anticipation, love and fulfillment begins on Christmas Eve, 1944, during the war, somewhere in Europe. Capt. Bob Wallace (a successful entertainer played by Crosby) and Priv. Phil Davis (an aspiring entertainer played by Kaye) are entertaining U.S. troops with a song-and-dance act. During it, they pay tribute to Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Waverly, their 151st Division commanding officer who is getting a transfer to the rear.

Once the tribute is over, shelling begins. Davis pulls Wallace to the side as a wall falls, saving Wallace’s life but injuring his arm in the process. While Davis is recovering, Wallace visits to thank him. Davis asks that they team up after the war as an entertainment act. After initially declining, Wallace succumbs to Davis’ entreaties – made as he rubs his injured arm.

Fast forward to post-war America. Their act a success, Wallace and Davis begin producing and directing shows. While in Florida with their show, they receive a letter from “Freckled-Faced Haynes – the dog-faced boy,” an old army buddy, asking them to watch a duet of his sisters, Betty (Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen).

Wallace and Davis go to the club and watch the act. After they meet, Betty tells Wallace that the letter was really from her sister Judy.

When the sheriff and an irate landlord arrive to collect deposit money from the, Wallace and Davis -– dressed as women -- sing and dance Betty and Judy’s “sisters” act as the girls escape.

All four wind up on a train headed from Florida to Vermont, where they have plans to perform, Davis gives the women the hotel room reserved for him and Wallace, while giving Wallace credit for being thoughtful. The women thank Wallace for his generosity, and the four of them look forward to snow, typical in Vermont this time of year.

But upon their arrival in the Green Mountain State, they see that Vermont has no snow. The four go to the inn where Betty and Judy have been booked to perform for the holidays.

The manager informs the sisters that they will not be needed, as no snow means slow business. As they are trying to figure out what to do, they are astounded to see Major General Waverly enter the inn carrying a load of firewood. Wallace and Davis drop their suitcases and salute.

The lack of business threatens to force the general to close his inn.

Determined to help, Wallace and Davis call their cast and crew to the inn to prepare to put on a show, one that has been reworked to include the sisters. During all this, Davis tries to set Wallace up. Once Davis and Judy meet, they plot to bring Wallace and Betty together. One night, they get Betty and Wallace into the inn lobby for a midnight snack and they sing together, “Count your Blessings.”

This scene serves as a pause in the story line, a time to give thanks in the midst of uncertainty: will people attend the Christmas Eve event and support the general, will Betty and Wallace end up together, will Davis and Judy end up together, will it ever snow?

Soon after this respite, Betty mistakenly comes to believe that Wallace is trying to take advantage of the general’s precarious circumstances. Disillusioned and angry, she leaves for a gig in New York. Wallace, who is also going to New York to appear on a radio show to request all 151st Division personnel living in the area to visit the Inn for Christmas Eve, attempts to persuade Betty to return, to no avail.

But after Betty hears Wallace’s appeal to the troops, she understands she was mistaken and returns to the inn for Christmas Eve.

The show’s last scene takes place at the inn. The general enters a room packed with men of the 151st Division; Betty and Wallace make up and kiss; Davis and Judy kiss; it begins to snow.

Davis remarks that the production was a success and they must get ready to travel and perform; Wallace replies that he will be busy – seemingly with Betty. In the final number, a happy cast toasts to "May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white."

Last week, I was traveling, and I woke up a few times in the middle of the night. Instead of worrying about future events as I normally would, I have begun lying as still as possible and counting my blessings.

In reviewing this year’s blessings (which include you, dear reader), I realize that I have written a column for 60 consecutive weeks. I will be taking next week off during which I plan to continue to count my blessings.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.