A crisp fall day greets us with a crunchy carpet of leaves as my dog and I make our way out first thing in the morning. August, a Westie, is restless and excited by all the new smells and feelings that hang in the air. But he’s not the only one. This is a season of restlessness and change, a time when we’re moving on to something else that isn’t quite in front of us yet.
I find myself singing songs from one of my favorite movies, a wonderfully crafted musical about restlessness, missing the point – and ultimately love. The kids and I watched Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” as we do every year just as the spooky season starts to sink in and change everything around us, and we all sing along. It’s a wonderful stop-action animated movie with intricate songs passionately written and sung by the great Danny Elfman.
Yet year after year, it’s the same routine
And I grow so weary of the sound of screams
And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King
Have grown so tired of the same old thing
Oh, somewhere deep inside of these bones
An emptiness began to grow
There’s something out there, far from my home
A longing that I’ve never known.
For those of you who don’t know this movie, it’s about the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington. He’s been making Halloween happen for many years and is quite good at it. But he’s bored and restless, thinking there has to be more. In his obsession he doesn’t even notice Sally, the raggedy patchwork girl sewn together by a mad scientist, who is also restless – and longs for Jack’s attention constantly.
I sense there’s something in the wind
That feels like tragedy’s at hand
And though I’d like to stand by him
Can’t shake this feeling that I have
The worst is just around the bend
And does he notice my feelings for him?
And will he see how much he means to me?
I think it’s not to be.
Everything gets strange when Jack wanders off and eventually discovers another town in another corner of their enchanted forest, the town where they make Christmas. He brings back a few of the tchotchkes hoping to understand the warmth that lies in the hearts of this wintry town, but he just doesn’t get it.
Christmas time is buzzing in my skull
Will it let me be? I cannot tell
There are so many things I cannot grasp
When I think I’ve got, and then at last
Through my bony fingers it does slip
Like a snowflake in a fiery grip.
Something’s here I’m not quite getting
Though I try, I keep forgetting
Like a memory long since past
Here in an instant gone in a flash
What does it mean?
What does it mean?
In these little bric-a-brac
A secret’s waiting to be cracked
These dolls and toys confuse me so
Confound it all, I love it though.
From there, Jack tries to make Christmas for himself, right there in Halloween town, and chaos naturally ensues. Once they kidnap Santa Claus the disaster comes naturally. In the end it’s Sally that puts everything right – and finally gets Jack’s attention. It is a love story, after all.
Why is this movie so much a part of my October? Because it is filled with a sense of wonder and amazement that carefully shapes the restlessness of this time of year. At the heart of it, though, is the ability to have the answers right in front of you and still, somehow, not be equipped to understand them. That’s why the sense of change floating in the air and gradually settling onto the ground is so unnerving. But if we open our hearts to possibilities far outside of anything we’ve ever had run through our heads amazing things can happen.
If you haven’t seen “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in a while – or never seen it at all – I recommend it highly. The restlessness of October has never been captured more lovingly.