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‘They get you hooked’

Alpenans share their favorite Christmas movies

News Photo by Jule Riddle A couple of well-groomed pups and visitor Beth Lang discuss their favorite Christmas movies at Muddy Paws Grooming in Alpena Friday morning.

ALPENA — At Headlines Family Salon, the answers came fast and thick.

“‘Home Alone.'”

“‘Christmas Vacation.'”

“‘The Grinch,’ of course!”

Razors zipping and tinfoil crimping, the salon’s employees and customers jumped eagerly into a discussion about their favorite Christmas movies on Friday, smiles dancing on their faces as they remembered old favorites and new classics.

The little group exclaimed with pleasure when a customer mentioned “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

“The classics that have a true meaning,” said hairdresser Jessie Fischer, sharing what makes a great Christmas movie. “For the kids.”

Her coworker, Judy Stevens, had never, until recently, watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“I’m not sure what happened to me,” she said wonderingly.

The classic is now part of her holiday repertoire.

Down the street, at Muddy Paws Grooming and Boarding, the black-and-while Jimmy Stewart film is a must-see for Beth Lang, who was visiting the business from her job across the street.

“I’m just a sappy-storyline person, you know? When they do the, ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings,’ that kind of stuff just makes me all, ‘Ohhh,'” she said, fingers wiggling delightedly.

Muddy Paws owner Michelle Sobek has a soft spot for the Rankin/Bass cartoon “The Little Drummer Boy,” appreciating its Christian message.

A friendly pooch who popped her snout over a wall to say hello didn’t respond when asked if she had a favorite Christmas film, but Lang suspected it would be “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Doberman.”

At the Alpena Public Safety Facility, Police Chief Joel Jett reminisced about cozy childhood evenings, snuggled up in pajamas and munching popcorn, watching “Rudolph” and hoping for a snow day.

While he considers the original “A Christmas Carol” to be the ultimate Christmas story, Jett’s favorite Christmas movie isn’t about the holiday, at all, though. His favorite December film tradition is “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” a simple, peaceful movie he watched over and over around the holidays growing up and now owns on DVD.

“I tend to go toward the older movies for my favorites,” Jett said, waxing eloquent about a favorite early John Wayne film. “That’s just me. I think I’m an old soul, that’s why.”

Nearby, at Jack’s Barber Shop, as a customer covered in a candy-striped cape braved the buzz of clippers at his neck, a barber grumbled good-naturedly about his wife’s fondness for Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, the ubiquitous holiday-themed movies that inundate the popular channel — 40 of them were scheduled this holiday season — with sweet, predictable love stories.

Tucked into a back corner amid the rampant colors and textures of Yarns to Go Fabrics, store owner Durenda Pake had a different perspective.

“They’re just a good story,” Pake said of the annual love story parade, deft hands adding a neat row of stitches to a colorful sock. The gentle, predictably happy-ending stories are romantic, and they’re easy to knit to, Pake said.

“They get you hooked, so you can’t walk away,” added customer Thomasine Parteka. “And there’s no shooting and no killing.”

Though she doesn’t always like sappy stories that don’t resemble reality, Parteka conceded there may be a place for such tales in the midst of a busy Christmas season.

“Sometimes, our lives are so hectic and full of tragedy, and it’s like, OK, this is not real, but it’s nice to watch,” Parteka

At the other end of the block, Laura Shearer perused the gentle tables and book-lined walls of Travelling Ladders, searching for trinkets to add to her daughter’s Advent calendar. Like many others, she has a soft spot for “It’s a Wonderful Life,” watching it over and over at Christmastime.

The repetition, the predictability of a favorite Christmas movie is, Shearer mused, an important part of a treasured season.

“I think it’s just part of what brings you back to Christmas, to the spirit of Christmas,” Shearer said. “I don’t watch it any other time of year, because I don’t want to. So, maybe that’s what it is.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.