Not even the Browns can dim the joy of the season

Not even the Browns can dim the joy of the season

I am not sure if my age is to blame, or the holiday season being upon us, or relief that the election commercials have finally fled the airwaves, but I am turning into a sap, and Amazon is to blame.

With life returning to somewhat normal after a busy fall sports/theater season, I sat down to watch a bit of the Browns taking on the Broncos a few weeks back. Even with the changed uniforms (Denver, mostly), it is impossible to see that matchup and not rehash the feelings of heartache surrounding the “drive” in January of 1987 followed a year later by the “fumble” of ‘88.

Mostly, I remember my father, a long-suffering Browns fan, now approaching his 85th year, with his face firmly planted in his hands, hands that just a few moments earlier were folded in prayer. God’s sense of humor when it comes to Cleveland sports teams is one filled with waggishness, but it is what makes us believers.

About midway through the second quarter, when it was clear the game was going to end like all others when playing the Broncos, a perfect storm of emotions filling the age spectrum occurred, one involving a movie trailer and the other an Amazon commercial.

The new “Wonka” film, starring Timothée Chalamet, is set to hit theaters in a few weeks. It is not a remake of the Gene Wilder classic (smart move), but rather a prequel, and by all accounts, it is filled with the visual spectacle that made the original so timeless. Toward the end of the trailer, it looks like the young Wonka is saying goodbye to his mother to fulfill his inventive wishes, chocolate and otherwise. Her parting words to her son: “Every good thing in this world started with a dream, so you hold onto yours.”

The power of that line to the young Wonka is one to which we already know the answer; that he did hold onto those dreams to become the world’s greatest maker of chocolate. It is a line that speaks directly to all those who love the Wilder classic film and solidifies Willy’s belief that his factory be put into the hands of a child where dreams truly take root.

And, those childhood dreams are on full display in Amazon’s latest holiday commercial which, coincidently, aired immediately after the Wonka trailer.

For those who have not seen the commercial, it shows three elderly friends sitting at the bottom of a sled riding hill, watching young folks conquer the snow-filled hill on sleds. The ladies are merely spectators in this childhood rite of passage, listening to the laughter of young folks, as they sit idly by, sipping their hot chocolate.

Then, the coolest of the three pulls out her cell phone and places an order on Amazon.

A day or so later, the package arrives, and before you know it, the ladies are placing their new seat cushions in their sleds and attacking the hill with the passion and laughter of their youthful counterparts, complete with a flashback of their spirited younger days riding toboggans down the same hill. It is a commercial filled with perfect effectiveness and endearment, one that tugs on the heartstrings while also making us reflect on our memories of winters gone by.

I do not mind a little advertising manipulation from time to time. I have always felt when done right, the appeal to pathos is the most effective of persuasive techniques. So, when you add one of the friends giving a little nod of assurance to the other two before their daring adventure, the smiling faces of the kids watching these old folks tackle the hill, and, most importantly of all, a piano version of The Beatles “In My Life” playing ever so softly in the background, Amazon is bound to get the emotional reaction they wanted. And it worked. At least it did for this sap.

As a few tears began making their way down my cheeks, I felt a bit like Jim Carrey’s Grinch when he cried for the first time, stating, “I’m all toasty inside … and I’m leaking.”

The commercial works because of how easily Amazon makes us connect to our youthful sled riding memories, moments shared with family and friends, inner tubes and frozen plastic sleds, trudges back up a hill after an enthusiastic ride down — sometimes with upward of three friends laying on top of each other — frozen fingers and toes with feet wrapped in Wonder Bread bread bags (why was that a thing?) and warm hot chocolate waiting for us at home.

And, in some cases, memories of our children, years later, doing the same thing: a shared generational experience.

The beauty of winter, maybe more so than any other season, is that it allows us all to create our own Norman Rockwell paintings, filled with our imaginary artwork.

Naturally, while I was crying a bit, my kids came into the living room, asking if I was crying because the Browns were losing. “That emotional well dried up a long time ago,” I replied.

They rolled their eyes and left the room.

For the young at heart, and all those who still believe and/or remain playful into their middle ages and beyond, there is no better time than the holidays to allow those dreams to become a reality. Whether it is the longed-for wish of pulling that impossible metaphorical “golden ticket” to experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure or ringing up some friends, tossing on the snow boots and heading to the closest snow-covered hill, the joy comes in the experience and in the meaningful moments those experiences provide.

And, that experience is made all the more special when the joy, which is sometimes tearful, is shared with those we treasure and love the most.

Brett Hiner is in his 27th year of teaching English/language arts at Wooster High School, where he also serves as the yearbook adviser and Drama Club adviser/director. When writing, he enjoys connecting cultural experiences, pop and otherwise to everyday life. He can be emailed

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