By Bill Stimpson, Associate Editor
Everyone can examine their life and identify from their past what I call life moments. Some of those memories might be the obvious: Graduation day, a wedding, a vacation of a lifetime, or a memorable birth or death. But often these life moments are less obvious at the time and not even appreciated until later, upon reflection.
One such memory for me came on Christmas Day 1992. And every time I recall this memory, not only do I experience the immense joy of the moment – but I also realize its deeply meaningful significance in my life.
Setting the stage
At the age of 25, things were finally coming together for me. Within the prior two years, I had moved away from home and landed my first “real” job. By the time December rolled around, I had even managed to hold on to a girlfriend for an entire six months. Things were definitely changing!
My new girlfriend (Michelle) and I were sharing our first holiday together. Christmas weekend that year left me home alone, with my two roommates both out of town. Our bachelor’s pad was a central place for our friends to hang out, so it was a very rare moment when one of us guys had the house to ourselves.
Since I worked evenings, our delightful Dalmatian, Domino, had become a special companion to me, as we so often spent late-night quality time together.
Michelle and I juggled various Christmas Eve and Christmas Day family gatherings. It was now Christmas night and we were ready to lay low. We took a second peek at our presents, and found that one of the stocking stuffers we received was a holiday movie classic that neither of us had seen – a VHS copy of It’s a Wonderful Life . We decided it was the perfect time to see why this was noted as one of the greatest movies of all time.
Preparing for the movie
It was a treat to be alone together in the townhouse. We got comfortable and started a fire in the big fireplace, right next to our Christmas tree. We dimmed the lights and even rearranged the furniture so we could have a front row seat for the feature film. Domino quietly watched us get ready, and then we presented him with his special gift-wrapped Christmas present – a brontosaurus-sized rawhide bone.
So…Domino was content on the floor for a while with his bone, and Michelle and I were all ready to sit back, relax, and watch the movie.
Unsure of what to expect from a movie more than 40 years old, we were both pleasantly surprised. It was truly a timeless and powerful film.
Toward the end of the movie, I sat with my two closest friends on either side of me, after Domino made a rare appearance on the couch – which was normally against the rules. Domino sat still, facing the TV, and seemed to be watching the movie along with us.
It was in this unique setting where one of my great “life moments” took place. During the emotional scenes at the end of the movie where the main character, George, realizes how wonderful life is – I, too, made the discovery.
My life moment
As the three of us sat watching the film credits, I had my left arm around Domino and my right arm around my future wife. Joyful tears flooded my eyes as I basked in the warmth from both the message of the film and my incredibly cozy surroundings. At that moment I not only witnessed what was truly important in life, but I also experienced it at the same time.
Slightly embarrassed as a young man might be with a face full of tears, I still couldn’t help but share my insight with Michelle. She quietly relished in the moment, too, and then suggested taking a picture to capture that moment of the three of us forever. Of course it was a great idea, but I quickly said that no picture was necessary since the experience would be perfectly etched in my mind for eternity.
Looking back, I’m happy I didn’t disrupt the moment searching for my camera.
The meaning of the moment
Reflecting back on this experience today in my mid forties, I’ve tried to pinpoint why, exactly, I always feel such an overwhelming flood of emotions when I think of that evening.
Part of it was the magic of the holidays, especially knowing now that this was the first of many I would spend with Michelle. Part of it was the powerful message of the movie. Part of it was also that this was an essential experience in my development – a pivotal point in my transition from an overgrown partying teenager (see bottles in the photo above)…into a responsible adult man. These all played a part in the “specialness” of the moment.
But what makes the moment most special is the fact that Domino was only around for such a brief period in my life. Sadly, we lost him the following summer at the far-too-young age of only a year-and-a-half.
Domino was a unique and special friend for me – one whose entire life coincided with my brief transition from young man to adult.
We often look back and enjoy all the amazing photos of our extraordinary spotted friend, but nothing will ever hold a candle to that amazing and joyful moment we shared together on Christmas Day, 1992.