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The Real Miracle on 34th Street: Santa Was Alone with a Child

What was Maureen O'Hara thinking when she let Kris Kringle tuck her daughter in?

There was the most amazing thing on television the other night. No, Survivors weren’t eating live snakes and the gang of “Jersey Shore” didn’t join a 12-step program. 

Rather, Old Kris Kringle -- in civilian clothes – was sitting on the edge of the bed of a young Natalie Wood in the 1947 Christmas classic film “Miracle on 34thStreet” talking to the little girl who was tucked under the covers, ready for sleep.

Why was that amazing? Because what mother in her right mind would allow a near-stranger alone with her child in a bedroom? Scenes like that oh-so-innocent one have gone the way of the dodo bird, as nearly extinct as heroes who casually smoke in TV dramas and sitcoms.

But while we cheerfully say goodbye to glamorizing smoking on TV, there is a certain sadness that comes with the acknowledgment of hyper-vigilance that society shows when any adult outside a child’s parents or grandparents takes an interest in a child.

Thank you, Jerry Sandusky.

The tragedies of the Penn State scandal, the clergy pedophilia scandals and those that affected organizations like the Boy Scouts continue to bear bitter fruit. If you can read the testimony of some of Sandusky’s victims and not feel sick, you have ice water in your veins.

The victims deserve our understanding, the right to sue those who enabled and protected Sandusky, and our pledge that we will do what we can to see it doesn’t happen to the next kid.

But along the way I will mourn another casualty – the loss of trust. That goes for the priest and the Scout leader who must guard against ever being alone with a child, and the coach who is afraid to touch his injured player for fear his concern might be misinterpreted.

It might seem like a small price to pay if society can keep more children safe from predators, but it’s still a cost worth acknowledging. 

How many mentor-student relationships never have a chance to bloom because parents suspect all adults’ motives and would-be mentors just don’t want the hassle?  

If “Miracle on 34th Street” was filmed today, Maureen O’Hara would have been running a criminal background check on the Jolly Old Elf before he’d have stepped one foot inside her apartment.

It might well be necessary but it’s still a shame.

tamarya December 13, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I agree anonymous, those background checks do not make me feel my children are safer with them, like you said they let you know they were caught, but someone starts somewhere and to me a clean clearance will make a bigger fight for me as a parent to prove someone hurt my kids in a courtroom.
tamarya December 13, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Not to mention those clearances come back if you were victimized and why should victims that moved forward and why should our children, if they becomes victims, be penalized because of some monster.
Sherry December 13, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I've watched this movie every year for 30 years and have never thought of this...except for this year. It's a shame the innocence of old time movies is even lost.
Mallory Vough December 13, 2012 at 08:41 PM
When I was in elementary school -- I'm 26, so this was in the 90s -- I remember watching videos maybe once a year about what to do if a stranger, relative, etc. tries to touch "the swimsuit areas," as Anonymous explains it. I still remember what that video taught me. It obviously had the impact that was intended. Are videos like this shown in classrooms today? Or were they trashed when a parent or two piped up and said, "That's my job. Don't explain that type of subject matter to my child."
tamarya December 14, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Will try to comment nicely however schools expect parents to teach that stuff, and now you really cannot leave children unattended where we were most likely taught in school that stuff because we were unsupervised a majority of the day and night, when outside playing. And schools would rather teach our kids other things, not important stuff.

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