Something you may have missed in “Home Alone”

Do you partake in the annual ritual of watching “Home Alone” every Christmas season? Then, thanks to the writing of John Hughes and the direction of Chris Columbus, you’ve witnessed one of the most dramatic movie conflicts of all time complete with heartwarming resolution. 

No, I’m not referring to Kevin McCallister’s battle defending his home from the Wet Bandits. The most important conflict resolved in that 1990 movie occurred next door on the snowy sidewalk leading up to Old Man Marley’s house. Don’t let Macaulay Culkin’s facial expressions, the slapstick pratfalls of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, or John William’s sublime score distract you from the dramatic reconciliation between an older father and his adult son in the very last scene. 

Early in the now-classic film, Kevin’s older brother, Buzz, menacingly describes Old Man Marley as a serial killer with a snow shovel. But later, Kevin learns the real reason his neighbor lives like a hermit and even offers the older gentleman some innocent and obvious advice.

Let’s take a look at that scene in which Kevin finds himself drawn to a big stone church. The choir is singing in the candlelight. He enters, sits in a pew, and is surprised to see Old Man Marley across the aisle. The man stands and crosses over to wear Kevin is seated. Initially, Kevin expresses fear, then confusion as the old man smiles and offers a friendly greeting . . .
 
INTERIOR STAINED GLASS CHURCH – EVENING – A YOUTH CHOIR IS REHEARSING “O HOLY NIGHT.”

OLD MAN MARLEY
Merry Christmas. May I sit down?
(Kevin nods; Old Man Marley sits down)
There’s my granddaughter up there. The little red-haired girl. She’s about your age. You know her?

KEVIN
No.

OLD MAN MARLEY
You live next to me, don’t you?
(Kevin nods)
You can say hello when you see me. You don’t have to be afraid. There’s a lot of things going around about me, but none of it’s true. Okay?
(Kevin nods)
You’ve been a good boy this year?

KEVIN
I think so.

OLD MAN MARLEY
You swear to it?

KEVIN
No.

OLD MAN MARLEY
I had a feeling. Well, this is the place to be if you’re feeling bad about yourself.

KEVIN
It is?

OLD MAN MARLEY
I think so.

KEVIN
Are you feeling bad about yourself?

OLD MAN MARLEY
No.

KEVIN
I’ve been kind of a pain lately. I said some things I shouldn’t have. I really haven’t been too good this year.

OLD MAN MARLEY
Yeah.

KEVIN
I’m kind of upset because I really like my family, even though sometimes I say I don’t. Sometimes I even think I don’t. Do you get that?

OLD MAN MARLEY
I think so. How you feel about your family is a complicated thing.

KEVIN
Especially with an older brother.

OLD MAN MARLEY
Deep down, you’ll always love him. But you can forget that you love him. You can hurt them, and they can hurt you. That’s not just because you’re young. You want to know the real reason why I’m here right now?

KEVIN
Sure.

OLD MAN MARLEY
I came to hear my granddaughter sing. And I can’t come hear her tonight.

KEVIN
You have plans?

OLD MAN MARLEY
No. I’m not welcome.

KEVIN
At church?

OLD MAN MARLEY
You’re always welcome at church. I’m not welcome with my son. Years back, before you and your family moved on the block, I had an argument with my son.

KEVIN
How old is he?

OLD MAN MARLEY
He’s grown up. We lost our tempers, and I said I didn’t care to see him anymore. He said the same, and we haven’t spoken to each other since.

KEVIN
If you miss him, why don’t you call him?

OLD MAN MARLEY
I’m afraid if I call that he won’t talk to me.

Pretty solid logic from an eight-year-old, “If you miss him, why don’t you call him?” Later, just before the credits roll, we see evidence that Old Man Marley has taken that advice. Kevin is drawn to the window where he sees that grandfather hugging his little red-haired granddaughter. Through Kevin’s window, the two new friends exchange waves. 

The final dialogue of the movie comes from Buzz yelling, “Kevin! What did you do to my room?” and suggests that life will soon be back to chaotic normalcy in the McCallister house. But that’s okay. Thanks to Kevin’s innocent and childlike prompting, the long-standing conflict next door has been resolved and a family restored. 

So how does this apply to your Christmas?

Well, if you’re part of a prolonged squabble between family members or one-time close friends, these transcribed scenes—with its simple childlike advice—may be worth your consideration
 
Of course, we don’t know what was said on the phone call between Old Man Marley and his son. We imagine a big dramatic apology, but maybe not! Maybe just hearing the voice of a loved one and a gentle statement suggesting that “I’m sorry about what happened between us” is all it takes. That’s a little scary at any age. But it’s worth the risk. As Kevin says later in the scene, “At least you’ll know.” 
 
KEVIN
My point is, you should call your son.

OLD MAN MARLEY
What if he won’t talk to me?

KEVIN
At least you’ll know. Then you could stop worrying about it. Then you won’t have to be afraid anymore. I don’t care how mad I was, I’d talk to my dad. Especially around the holidays.

OLD MAN MARLEY
I don’t know.

KEVIN
Just give it a shot, for your granddaughter anyway. I’m sure she misses you…and the presents.
 
As you replayed this scene in your mind, did some broken relationship of your own come to mind? Do you have their phone number? Or email address? You know what to do. At the very least, consider reaching out and say, “I was thinking about you” or “It’s been a long time and I’m hoping to reconnect. How are you?”

Christmas may be the best time for this kind of conversation. Or not! But please consider the possibility that your son, daughter, mom, dad, brother, sister, or old friend has been thinking about you.

What was that fight about anyway? Might time have healed that wound? Not to minimize an interaction or altercation that was truly malicious, but people do change. Now that you’re a bit older and wiser, maybe you realize you do have something to apologize for. It’s no fun to live with regrets and broken relationships. In some cases, a single two-minute phone call can resolve a decades long conflict.
 
So don’t let old wounds to fester. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Hope for the best. Take the chance. Make the call. It could be the best gift you give or receive this year. A gift that opens the door to much-needed healing or a more joy-filled holiday. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Newsletter

Sign up now to receive notes from Jay in your inbox. Just a few times per month.

Something short and sweet. A discovery. A warning. A reminder. A joke worth sharing.
Maybe an announcement about my schedule or a new product.
No spam. No pop ups. You can opt out anytime.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.