Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Brady Bunch Christmas Ornament

The Little Monsters are pretty big fans of "The Brady Bunch", and that fact makes me very happy. I loved the show when I was a kid, and realized later on that I never really outgrew it or stopped loving it. I was born in 1969, the same year that "The Brady Bunch" premiered. In fact I was actually born six days before the first episode aired! Needless to say, while I was physically present during the initial run of the show from 1969 to 1974, I don't have any actual memories from that time. I've heard that my family would gather around the TV to watch it, but I was simply too young to recall that experience (and was probably asleep in my crib by the time it came on).

But "The Brady Bunch" was one of those shows (like "Star Trek", "Gilligan's Island" and many more) that seemed to be in constant rotation via syndication throughout my childhood. I got to know the family very well by watching the old episodes on the Boston-area independent UHF channels (I certainly recall it being on WLVI Channel 56).

By the time I graduated from high school and entered the Army I had pretty much outgrown "The Brady Bunch"--or so I thought anyway. When I got out of the Army a couple years later I found myself watching quite a bit of TV. And around the same time "The Brady Bunch" ended up having quite a revival in popularity. You could still find it in syndication, but around 1989 or so (which makes sense because it was the 20th anniversary of the show) interest in "The Brady Bunch" spiked. It was not only on some of the small local channels trying to fill time slots with old sitcoms, but Nickelodeon and other cable channels started running it as well. A new generation of kids was introduced to the show and folks who grew up with it in the 1970s and 80s (like me) were re-introduced to it. It was also around this time that Barry Williams (Greg Brady) wrote the behind-the-scenes book "Growing up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg", one of the first of several Brady-themed books that capitalized on the renewed interest in the show.

After the big Brady revival the show once again receded in my life. I never stopped loving it, but didn't really have much of an opportunity to see it for several years. When The Little Monster was born in 2005 I found myself thinking about the show once again. The Wife and I had gone to the Grand Canyon as part of our honeymoon, and naturally I thought about the Brady's trip to the Grand Canyon (and their adventure at the ghost town along the way). A few days after we came home from the hospital with The Little Monster we found ourselves pretty much homebound. We were rookie parents getting used to the idea that we had this helpless tiny human that depended on us for her very survival. I needed to go out to Target to get some supplies (it was probably the very first of several diaper runs over the next couple years). I also kind of needed to just get out of the house for a bit of a break. In the time between the end of the 90s Brady Bunch revival and my trip to Target DVDs had changed the world of home video. It was now possible (and affordable) to acquire seasons or complete series of your favorite TV shows. It WAS possible to do this earlier, but putting together an entire series on VHS tapes cost a lot of money and took up a LOT of room. My own collection of DVDs was pretty modest at this point, but while on my little shopping trip I knew that I just HAD to pick up the third season of "The Brady Bunch" (the season that started with the three-episode adventure to the Grand Canyon!).

Within a couple years I had acquired the first four seasons on DVD. I'm not exactly sure why, but to this day I have STILL not picked up season five. But it's currently available for streaming on HULU, so there doesn't seem to be any urgency to do so. In an interesting bit of coincidence that had never occurred to me until just now while writing this post I realized that "The Brady Bunch" premiered within a week of the day I was born, and then I bought the Season Three DVD set of the show within a week of The Little Monster being born. Perhaps she was destined to become a fan of the show. More likely she was destined to be influenced by me and my nostalgia to become a  fan of the show.

Either way, a few years later I was introducing The Little Monster (and later her sister, The Tiny Creature) to "The Brady Bunch". We had a great time watching the trips to the Grand Canyon and Hawaii--and many other Brady classic episodes--together. It was fun for me to see her discovering the show through her eyes. It's many years later, but The Little Monsters still enjoy watching the show. They've even introduced it to some of their friends, who might not have ever been exposed to the "The Brady Bunch" otherwise.

So, what exactly does all of the have to do with "The Brady Bunch Christmas Ornament"? Well, nothing I suppose. It was basically just a long-winded introduction to let the reader know that "The Brady Bunch" has been a relatively important thing in my life--and throughout my life. Another important thing in my life has been the Christmas season. Last year the two collided in a small, but unexpected way that seemed worth reporting here.

While doing a little research for this post I discovered that there have been at least a couple official Brady Bunch ornaments produced over the years. The first one is a Hallmark collectible ornament that was apparently produced in 2014. It is now out-of-production and seems to be kind of hard to find--and expensive to purchase when you can find one. Some can be found on eBay for prices currently ranging between $50.00 and $80.00. Crazy. The ornament is an old-fashioned television set with a picture from the Brady Bunch show opening featuring the family and the show logo on the screen.

The other apparently officially licensed ornament comes from Carlton Cards and features a Brady Bunch lunchbox that opens like a real lunchbox and includes a thermos, a sandwich and an apple! It's actually four ornaments in one! I'm not sure about the rarity of this one, but it also seems pretty hard to find and rather expensive on eBay.

They're both pretty cool ornaments. The Tiny Creature loves tiny things and would love to have these to hang on the tree. Unfortunately they're just too expensive to seriously consider at this point. There are also a few unofficial ornaments made by enterprising people and sold on sites like eBay. One that I saw last year is a 1971 Plymouth Satellite station wagon (like the Bradys owned) that appears to be a Hot Wheels toy which has been modified by including a small loop on the roof and a hook to hang it from a tree.

I meant to write this post last year but wasn't able to get around to it before Christmas, so it got put off until this year. While doing a little additional research recently, I found another unofficial Brady Bunch ornament that looks kind of neat. It's a replica of the infamous tiki idol statue from the fourth season Hawaii episodes. Apparently this ornament can be seen on the HGTV special "A Very Brady Renovation: Holiday Edition". In the past year the original Brady Bunch house (which was only used for the exterior shots on the show) was bought by HGTV and renovated to look like the interior sets from the show. The renovation actually featured all of the Brady kids and was a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show. Unfortunately I still haven't gotten around to seeing any of the renovation (we don't have cable), but am hoping to check it out at some point.

So, there are indeed a number of "Brady Bunch Ornaments" out there, but believe it or not this post isn't about ANY of them. It IS about an ornament, but it's actually a generic ornament that wasn't designed or meant to have anything to do with "The Brady Bunch". Here it is.

So what exactly does this ornament have to do with "The Brady Bunch"? If it weren't for me noticing something kind of funny last holiday season it would have nothing at all to do with the show. But, like The Elf Pants ornament (which I've written about in The Elf Pants: A New Holiday Tradition! and The Return of the Elf Pants!) it has become a kind-of special ornament in our family (for all the typical Monster Dad reasons).

"The Brady Bunch" was on TV for five seasons (not including the animated Brady Kids show, the very strange "Brady Bunch Variety Hour" or any of the reunion specials, movies ("A Very Brady Christmas") and series produced over the years. The original series had only one true Christmas episode, and it was during the first season. The episode is called "The Voice of Christmas" and concerns the Brady Bunch preparing to celebrate their first Christmas together as a family (Mike and Carol were both widowed parents of three children each). Mrs. Brady is supposed to sing at church on Christmas morning but ends up with laryngitis. Cindy asks Santa to give her her voice back for Christmas. Whether it was the department store Santa, a true Christmas miracle or simply a coincidence, Carol wakes up on Christmas morning with her voice back and ready to sing at church. Here are some scenes from the episode (sorry for the low quality--they are photos taken of our TV screen). Note all the great 1960s-70s holiday decorations!

When we watched the episode last year I noticed something that made me think of the ornament above. After the boys bring home the Brady's tree and set it up they begin the process of decorating it. Alice and the girls come down the stairs with boxes of ornaments and tinsel. Alice tells the girls to be careful because the ornaments are fragile. When Cindy asks what fragile means Alice (with perfect timing) trips a little bit and drops a box of ornaments on the floor. One of them breaks. She lifts the damaged ornament up to show Cindy and tell her that is what fragile means.

It was that moment that something clicked in my brain. The smashed green ornament looked very familiar. I looked at our tree and saw what appeared to be a broken green Christmas ornament that had some bells, a little ribbon and some Christmas greenery on display inside the open cavity. The opening had a rippled edge that looked astonishingly (imo) like the ornament that Alice had just broken.

Of course our "Brady Bunch ornament" was never meant to be related to the show. But in some way it almost seems even more "official" than the officially licensed ornaments from Hallmark and Carlton Cards. After all it's an actual ornament from the 1960s or 70s that was probably produced around the time the show was on the air, and would have looked perfectly at home on the Brady's tree.

I'm not exactly sure where our "Brady Bunch ornament" came from, but it most likely came from a yard sale that The Wife and I visited during out first few years together. We have a number of ornaments from her childhood, but unfortunately none from mine. Over our first few years together we purchased quite a few vintage ornaments for our Christmas trees. The box of four plastic "Brady Bunch ornaments" most likely came to us during this time. Little did we (especially The Wife) know that one of these random, kind of cheesy-looking vintage ornaments would eventually come to be known as "The Brady Bunch ornament". At least in our household anyway! It's hard to imagine that anyone else who ever bought a set of these ornaments ever had the thought: "Hey, these things look a lot like that ornament that Alice broke in the Christmas episode of 'The Brady Bunch'!"


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Return of the Elf Pants!

Last year I wrote (in The Elf Pants: A New Holiday Tradition) about something that I hoped would become a new holiday tradition in our household. Perhaps tradition is a bit strong of a word for it though. What I was actually writing about was a new "ornament" for our Christmas tree that I hoped would become a regular part of our holiday season as we decorate the tree each year. And the reason I used quotes around the word ornament just now is because this so-called ornament was never intended to be an ornament. In fact, it was never intended to be anything at all. If it weren't for a small but hilarious misunderstanding, that "ornament" could very easily have become a bit of refuse, thrown into the trash and forgotten about.

The whole story can be found in that post from last year. But to recap, in August of 2018 we were spending some time at the In-Laws' house. The Tiny Creature enjoys crafting and also loves all things tiny. She found a tiny wicker basket that was being used as part of a centerpiece on the dining room table. She decided it needed to be filled and went to work crafting some "food" out of duct tape. She put a piece of green tape onto a piece of red tape and cut out a triangular shape to make a slice of watermelon. It was a smart bit of crafty thinking and a cute little piece of fruit for the basket. I knew that she was working on some project, but didn't really know the details. When I went over to see what she was making I saw not the watermelon slice, but the about-to-be-discarded remnants of the tape she cut the watermelon out of. My reaction was to say that she did a good job with the red "elf pants" (with green shoes) and to wonder why she didn't finish making the rest of the elf.

Once I realized my mistake I instantly found it to be about the funniest thing in the world and couldn't stop laughing--which pretty much made everyone think that I had gone crazy. It was a bit tough to explain just why I was laughing so hard and why I found it to be so funny. But once I calmed down I knew that there was no way I was going to let that little scrap of tape be thrown away. I hid it in my stuff and brought it home in secret. It was not seen again until a couple weeks before Christmas when we had our tree set up and were ready to decorate it. I announced that there was a special, brand-new ornament that we were going to start using that year. Naturally nobody remembered the "elf pants incident" from four months earlier when I brought it out, so I had to remind them. We had a good laugh (I think The Little Monsters laughed harder than The Wife) and the Elf Pants ceremoniously became the first ornament to be put on the tree.

It's hard to believe that a whole year has passed, but we now have another Christmas tree set up in our living room. When last year's tree came down in January I packed all the lights and ornaments away until December. Well, I packed everything up except for the Elf Pants ornament, which I put aside to ensure that it wouldn't be forgotten about or lost among all the other Christmas stuff. Instead I put it in a box of stuff that I keep handy, and hoped I wouldn't manage to lose or forget about it over the course of the ensuing spring, summer and fall seasons. I will admit to semi-forgetting about it, but when it came time to look for it, there it was--just waiting to be put up on the tree again!

They're Back!!!
The 2019 Christmas tree arrives

The lights go on first

And the first ornament is added!

The finished product. Can you spot the Elf Pants?
We have a pretty large number of "special" ornaments that have meaning to us for various reasons. There are a few ornaments from The Wife's childhood. The Wife and I have some "First Christmas Together", "First Christmas in Our New House" and "First Christmas as Husband and Wife"-type ornaments. There are ornaments from each of our Disney cruises and visits to Disney World over the years. We also have MANY "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments from when The Little Monster was born. And then there are quite a few less "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments from The Tiny Creature's first year (much to her chagrin). Throw in some ornaments that The Monsters have made over the years and a few other special ones, both old and new, and it makes for a pretty full and special Christmas tree. But now the Elf Pants have made their second appearance on the tree. I think that means they have indeed become a true family tradition of sorts! It's still a pretty young tradition I suppose, but a tradition nonetheless!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Little Monster Turns Fourteen!

Yes it's true, today is the day that The Little Monster turns...fourteen(!!!). Wow, now that's really something to think about. Last year at this time I wrote (in Draclea vs. Frakenstein) about the scary thought that our Little Monster--the one who was the main inspiration for this blog when she really WAS little back in 2010--was turning thirteen and becoming a teenager. Somehow we survived this past year, and now suddenly another birthday is upon us. Fourteen doesn't seem like as monumental an age as thirteen, but the simple fact that she just keeps on growing and growing does give me pause to think and wonder just where my Little Monster went?

Here are some of our adventures over the years!

There's a lot I could say about this situation. The Tiny Creature is a ten-year-old herself and I can really see the end of childhood for both the Monsters coming toward us very soon. It's kind of a sad thought. But, of course it's also exciting to see them growing and thriving in their world. From little girls to young women, I guess it's what happens to us all (well, except that some of changed from boys to young men of course!). But I don't want to go on and on here about my continuing issues and battles with my old enemy Time. That can wait for another post. This one is actually something quite different from the usual kind of stuff that I write about. Instead of being a post about my thoughts on The Little Monsters, my past or any of that kind of stuff, this post is meant to be a Birthday Card of sorts. It is meant specifically for The Little Monster, so the rest of it will be written for, and to, her...

Then and now from last year when she turned 13

Happy Birthday, Mini! I can't believe that you're fourteen years old today! I know it probably sounds corny, but I still remember the day we brought a tiny, newborn you home from the hospital fourteen years ago--and promptly left you strapped into your car seat on the dining room table (asleep) while we both collapsed for a quick nap. And we also failed to even remember to close the front door! Luckily we got a little better at the parenting thing over time. We were rookies and there was much to learn. I'd like to think that we've taught you a lot over these past fourteen years (at least I hope we have anyway), but at the same time you (and your little sister) have also taught us everything that we know about parenting!

I'm sure I say something like this every birthday, but I hope that this year will be your best one so far! I hope everything goes your way and you will be healthy and happy throughout. Obviously you have been around long enough to know that life doesn't always work out the way we hope or plan and there are no guarantees, but I can still hope, can't I?

I do have to admit that I miss the "old days" when we'd watch so many movies and old TV shows together all the time (Godzilla films, "Eegah!", "Ghostbusters", Abbott & Costello, "The Brady Bunch", "The Incredible Hulk"...). But I'm glad that, even with changing tastes and many more time commitments, we do still manage to find a little time to watch some fun stuff together ("The 'Burbs", the Rocky movies, "Seinfeld", "The Office"...). You're definitely not little anymore (though at least you still aren't taller than me...yet), but you'll always be my Little Monster. At least I hope so!

So this blog post has sort of been my birthday present to you. But don't worry, there WILL be actual presents too! I just wanted to do something a little different, and kind of make my own personal e-birthday card for you. And now, to wrap things up I actually have a special surprise. Here's someone else who wanted to wish you a happy birthday. Take it away special guest star...