It was a Christmas to remember.

The year was 1985. Robin was seven going on eight years of age. Ryan had just turned three.

We packed up the Pacer, which was literally being held together by a bicycle tire tube, to go to the theater to see “One Magic Christmas.”

(At first I used a sturdy rubber band to substitute for a broken spring in the Pacer’s driver’s side door handle. It kept breaking so I cut off part of a bicycle tire tube which lasted longer. We found a used part for the vehicle’s door handle but it was over $500. My fix worked just fine.)

Naturally we were expecting to see Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, some elves and maybe Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer in the magical movie.

It was going to be truly “One Magic Christmas.” Going to a movie was a rare treat for us in those days.

It turned out to be not so magical.

Mary Steenburgen played the role of Ginny Grainger and Gary Basaraba, who Mad Men watchers should know, played Jack.

Harry Dean Stanton was cast as Gideon the angel? Yes, that is a question mark.

It became pretty clear early in the movie that Ginny hated Christmas. Money probably had a lot to do with that as Jack had lost his job and she hated her job at the grocery store. There weren’t any funds to buy the kids, Cal and Abbie, Christmas gifts.

The couple had just $5,000 in a savings account which is roughly $11,000 by today’s standards.

The family wasn’t much different than ours at the time. Both Kathy and I had earned college degrees and were working but, after paying the Kansas Gas bill and paying for childcare, we didn’t have $5,000 sitting in a savings account.

If I recall the movie plot correctly, a man at the gas station tried to sell some of his possessions to Ginny. She ignored him.

Jack took the kids to the bank to withdraw some of the money from the savings account to buy gifts and left the kids in the vehicle parked outside.

Naturally Ginny didn’t want Jack to withdraw the money for, of all things, Christmas presents. She saw Jack walk into the bank and went inside to stop him.

While they were inside, the man from the gas station scene tried to rob the bank. Jack got in the way and got shot. The shooter ran outside and jumped into Jack’s vehicle with the two kids still in the backseat.

Ginny got into the shooter’s car and chased him but it ran out of gas. Meanwhile, trying to avoid a police roadblock, the shooter skidded off a bridge into the icy river.

In the next scene, Ginny returned to an empty home, while the movie theater usher passed out tissues to the crying audience.

This was not the Christmas movie we expected our two young children to see.

I always think of this movie at Christmas time as a reminder that not everybody enjoys the holiday. Many this time of year are trying to pay the heating bill and the cell phone bill.

And, for them, there is not a Gideon watching over them to turn back time so that Ginny actually bought a camp stove from the man at the gas station and the plot totally changed.

We hope that something magical happens to all of you this Christmas and you can enjoy the holiday.

Contact Tim Horan at

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