Guys, I wanted to start this recap with a little bit of my thoughts about how the movie handled foster care and adoption. I hope you’ll indulge a bit of a detour from my normal nonsense.
At first, I was really annoyed and concerned about how they would deal with foster care. Will and Laurel fostered a newborn for a long time and were understandably devastated that they would not remain in his life. (And that he probably wouldn’t remember them!) First, Laurel was angry that this baby was “taken” from them. She couldn’t imagine opening her heart to another child the same way. Couldn’t imagine going through it all again. But, she ultimately changed her attitude. I really liked that. It is probably an emotional journey many of us can relate to. I know foster parents who have felt that way. The attachment and feelings of loss are real. The anger at the seeming injustice of it all is real too. And so many parents get into foster care with the wrong motivations which causes them to be really frustrated by the goal of reunification. Ahem, myself included. I was really worried that Will and Laurel would get exactly what they thought they wanted-adopting a newborn baby through foster care. I was worried because that would perpetuate all kinds of myths and misconceptions about foster care. And you all know how I feel about people learning lessons!
But I did sympathize with them! I’ve experienced the fear and anxiety that comes with desperately wanting to keep kids I’ve grown attached to without rooting against their parents’ success. It’s really hard. And I’ve felt worn out and hopeless. I’ve felt despair. I’ve felt angry about how the system works, about the unfairness. And I’ve been so blessed to come out on the other side and see God’s hand through the whole thing. Like, what if God had only given me exactly what I wanted right when I wanted it? I would have missed out on so much. Whew. So, if you’d like to hear more about fostering or my experience, please shoot me an email! I’d love to share more with you if you’re curious. But for now, let’s dive into the recap!
The movie begins with our leading lady, Laurel organizing a whole children’s holiday concert.
After rehearsal, she talks to her friend about her NANA being hurt and having a hard time taking care of her. The friend suggests they hire a caregiver. She knows of a great place too! Laurel doesn’t think they could afford it after doing IVF. But, she agrees to look into it.
She shuts the door upstairs and talks to Hannah as she walks in. Why doesn’t she call her grandma? GUYS She’s saying Nana. I thought it was Hannah. Wow. Okay. Turning captions on. They catch up a little about her day and then they make dinner together. They both seem like they are in a sad, dark place. Laurel’s husband, Will, returns home with a Christmas basket from work. They suggest to NANA that they decorate for Christmas. Nana seems reluctant.
Later Will and Laurel talk NOT VERY QUIETLY about what to do about Nana. It seems clear that Nana can hear. She wonders about quitting the winter program so she has more time to take care of Nana. Will wonders about using some money her grandpa left her? Well DUH. Laurel really wants to make sure she’s taken care of since Nana and her Grandpa took her in twice.
The next day Laurel calls the caregiving agency. The caregiving agency is COMPLETELY BOOKED until January but they’ll get her on the wait list.
Will tells Laurel he met someone’s baby. She’s like cool but I don’t want to talk about that. It’s been over a year but she’s not ready. OMG I just realized she was calling her “Nana” not Hannah. I’ve corrected up top but I want you all to know how long it took me to realize this. She realizes she forgot to make snickerdoodle cookies for work. BEEN THERE. The doorbell rings. It’s Gloria “Merkel” and she has snickerdoodle cookies. Laurel is confused because they said they were all booked up!
Nana tells everyone she doesn’t need a babysitter. Also, her actual name is Helen. So, I’m really dying at this error of mine. Helen is suspicious but Gloria has recommendations on references on recommendations. It’s ALL GONNA CHECK OUT NANA.
Laurel and Helen have a mini chat about Gloria. Helen reluctantly agrees that she can stay and help out. On the house tour, Laurel fills Gloria in on why they all live together. Why are they shouting? This is Helen’s first holiday without her husband. Gloria asks about a closed room. Laurel just says they keep that door closed and that she will not be taking questions at this time.
Gloria’s snickerdoodles taste like Helen’s. Helen says they’re fine. Laurel takes them to her faculty lunch. HOW FORTUITIOUS.
After the kids head off to work, Gloria suggests she and Helen decorate for Christmas. Helen gets down to brass tacks with Gloria but she cannot be ruffled.
At work, Will looks up reviews of the caregiving agency. They are VERY POSITIVE. Will calls Helen “Nana” which is very sweet.
On the school there’s a banner that reads “SCHOOL PAGEANT IN 3 DAYS.” So that’s money well spent.
Laurel’s dad calls and wants to get together with her for dinner the following week. He mentions a bunch of people’s names and I can’t tell if they’re his kids, Laurel’s siblings, or what. Laurel is not very receptive to any of it but says she’ll get back to him.
Back at the house, Gloria hums her namesake song while she cross stitches. Helen stares daggers at her. Meanwhile, at school, the faculty raves about “Laurel’s” snickerdoodles. She’s like, wait they’re not that good, right? I’m not on board with Laurel’s frumpy outfit. The boss announces Laurel’s friend’s pregnancy in front of everyone. Laurel is shocked. The friend very kindly pushes Laurel out in the hall away from everyone and is apologetic about the surprise. She immediately tries to suggest that Laurel try fostering again and says there will be a forever baby for them. Laurel says that ship has sailed but she’s happy for her friend. Oh, Laurel. I am glad you have a nice friend that doesn’t always say the right thing but means well.
Helen calls in a panic because Gloria was “snooping.” Gloria calls from the kitchen “for a spatula!” It’s a whole funny bit.
Will and his pal apparently did some bro shopping for a white elephant gift exchange at work. (Again, Hallmark is OBSESSED THIS YEAR). Will settles on a neck pillow. Will runs into Nancy, their former social worker for foster care. How does he not remember her? She has been meaning to reach out because they need more foster parents. She wonders if they’d be open to try again? Will asks if Jonathan is okay. Nancy says he and his mom are doing well. Will dramatically says to put them back on the list for newborns. Nancy is like, okay so yeah I’ll just put you in line behind the hundred other families that only want newborns to go along with their false expectations of the goal of foster care.
Later, Laurel googles Gloria. The stories are crazy. She is always in the right place at the right time. INTERESTING. Also are Will and Laurel in a twin bed? The next day, Gloria arrives with a Christmas tree. She mysteriously cleared space in the living room the day before. Gloria and Laurel talk about miracles while they dig out the Christmas decorations. Gloria has all kinds of little wise tidbits.
Gloria and Helen venture out of the house. Helen freaks out when she realizes Gloria’s car is the exact same as her husband’s when they first met. Well, isn’t that a koinky-dink. Helen loves it. It just takes her right back to when she was dating Robert They stroll through an outdoor market. Gloria gets the backstory on Laurel. Laurel’s mom died when she was six and when her dad remarried, she never felt like part of the family. Then Gloria asks about the closed bedroom door. Helen tells her about Jonathan. Laurel and Will were his foster parents for 18 months. They were in the process of adopting him when his mom got herself organized and they were able to be reunified. So, he went back to his mom just before Christmas the year before. And then Laurel’s grandpa died. Also Helen knows SOMETHING IS UP WITH GLORIA. But, they agree to work together on Laurel. This alliance seems to change the course of their friendship going forward.
Good news: the school purchased another banner that announces the Pageant in ONE DAY.
Laurel talks to one of the girls and her mom about how well she’s doing in pageant practice. Then Laurel tells her friend that it’s not been going well with Gloria. But then, Laurel returns home to the ladies baking and singing in the kitchen. The gang all decorates the tree together. Laurel shares a tiny bit with Gloria about coming to live with her grandparents. Gloria and Laurel talk about motherhood. Gloria reminds her that she is and was a mom to Jonathan. Then Gloria talks about her own daughter, Mercy, who died when she was young.
Back in the kitchen Helen and Will talk. He calls her Nana. Is that cute? Will tells Helen that he got back on the foster waiting list. I’m SHOCKED they haven’t called about needing a placement for a newborn baby already. (eyeroll).
Back in the living room, Will asks Laurel to dance. RIGHT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. Helen suggests Laurel and Will have a date night. Also, is that it? Is that all they were decorating that tree? There’s like nothing on it.
Later Will and Laurel walk down by the water. They talk about meeting for the first time. Will says there’s something he wants to talk to her about. Then her dad calls. They talk about her anger about him and “Forgetting about her mom.” Will encourages her to meet up with him and tell him what SHE needs to say. So now the moment has passed regarding Will’s information. I wonder if that’s going to blow up in his face later?
When they get home, the entire exterior is lit up. They apparently did the inside too. So did Helen know that Gloria used magic? Or angel power? Or what?
The house is finally decorated to Hallmark standards. Laurel goes into Jonathan’s room for a moment but then quickly shuts the door. Helen asks if she’s okay. Helen suggests they watch jeopardy. In the kitchen, Will pounds some Christmas cookies alone. Then he and Laurel talk about what a nice time they had at the waterfront. I love her dress. Will feels like they’re coming out of a “dark period.” Will starts to broach the fostering subject and Laurel shuts it down.
Gloria arrives to take Helen ball room dancing.
Will and Laurel chat on the phone about gifts. Laurel tells Will not to spend a lot of money on her. Will browses at a really weird store. Inside, he immediately finds some very expensive earrings. It’s the same girl at the counter that answered the caregiving phone! And her name is MERCY. So, what’s up with that. Mercy thought she saw him with her daughter the other day? He’s like, I don’t have a daughter. Then Mercy mutters, “you will!” And NOBODY TEARS UP ABOUT THAT.
Helen runs into her pals at the ballroom dancing center and Gloria knows all their names. Art seems to have eyes for Helen. Helen and Art dance. He lost his wife too. This is so cute I can’t bear it. They talk about getting over the loss of their spouses.
Laurel has dinner with her dad. No Will? That’s weird, right? Laurel is like, why are you here? He says he didn’t have a client and he just wanted to see her. He apologizes for not being present for her after her mom died. She tells him how she feels now and how she felt back then. He hands her a gift. It’s an angel tree topper. It must have been her mom’s! Making those tree toppers was her favorite memory with her mom. Her dad said he just felt like he needed to get it to her and to apologize. He asks how he can make it up to her now. NOBODY is tearing up. Whew. All that before they even take a bite.
Later, they catch up with Helen and Gloria. Helen is going to teach Gloria to quilt. Then Helen invites Gloria to their Christmas Eve Mass. In the kitchen, Helen tells Laurel that she thinks Gloria is a real angel. Laurel is like, there, there Nana. Let’s get you to bed. Helen has PUT IN THE INVESTIGATIVE WORK so maybe we should all listen in. But, Laurel is oblivious. Helen says even though Laurel doesn’t believe in angels, they believe in her.
Will wonders what the big deal is that Helen thinks Gloria is an angel? Same. Laurel shuts down more “future” talk with Will. Then Helen and Gloria walk into the kitchen. Helen had a vivid dream about her husband. Gloria says she used to have dreams about her daughter, Mercy. Will is like wait, who? Anyway, they all decide to get those expensive earrings for Laurel for the child pageant. At this point I implore my husband not to spend $1200 on earrings for me.
Helen and Gloria get to quilting with her quilting pals. Helen is using all sentimental pieces of fabric. Her daughter’s blanket, Jonathan’s baby blanket, things from her husband. Helen is like, oh and Gloria I am going to use something to remember you too whenever you go back to “Cleveland” or wherever you’re from.
Will walks into that same weird shop and wants Mercy to get the commission. The floor manager is like, never heard of her. So, WHAT’S THAT ABOUT.
I think we are watching the actual children’s program right now. Yes. This is quite elaborate. We actually used to have pretty elaborate Christmas programs when I was in elementary school but I feel like they don’t do that as much anymore. The kids all get Laurel a big thank you card. Gloria tells Will the child that was meant to be for them will find them.
Later, they have a party in the faculty lounge. Wait, this is the work white elephant party for Will or for Laurel? It seemed like her boss was there. Anyway, Will’s gift is a sign that says “it’s a girl.” Yikes. Is this friend that insensitive?
Will shows Gloria the sign he got and about the sales girl. Laurel overhears their convo. Will tells Gloria about how much joy was in their home with Jonathan. Laurel interrupts and tells them there are carolers down the street and they should join them.
So they all load up and go caroling. Gloria suggests “Joy to the World” for their next song.
The next day, Gloria runs into Laurel at the coffee shop. Gloria invites her to sit with her for a few minutes. She admits she overheard Will and Gloria talking the night before. She feels like she’s failed Will and doesn’t know if she can give him what he wants. Gloria reminds her that she doesn’t have to shoulder the burden of everything that goes wrong. And it’s okay to feel joy again.
Later, Gloria and Helen go dancing again. Gloria tells Helen she’ll have to leave after Christmas since Helen is feeling so much better.
Laurel gets a call from Nancy. UH OH. She said she has a newborn ready to be placed that night. Laurel is like, what? We aren’t fostering right now. So Nancy is confused and obviously so is Laurel. When she gets home, she sees Will waiting on the steps. Laurel tells Will she can’t go through that loss again. Laurel tells him he should find someone that can give him what he wants. Will tells her it isn’t over.
Will packs up and heads out. He assures Helen that he’s not giving up on Laurel. After Will leaves, Laurel just lays around in her room. Helen checks on her.
Will and his friend Neil talk at his house about how this will all blow over. Poor Will, stuck on his friend’s couch at Christmas. He runs into their daughter, Britta. She asks to have a tea party.
Laurel comes down and vents about all the bad things that have happened to her. Gloria says she’s looking at it the wrong way. She reminds her that fostering Jonathan was not necessarily about her “getting” him and having him taken away. Instead, she provided a loving home for eighteen months and now he gets to be with his biological mother. So, she was a gift to him.
Upstairs, Laurel has a moment with a picture of Jonathan in his old room. She says she was so happy she got to be his mom for a little while and NOBODY CRIED THEN AND CERTAINLY NOT NOW AS THEY GO BACK AND EDIT. So then, Laurel goes to Neil’s house. She sees Will in the middle of high tea. Will informs Laurel that he’s on his fifth tea party in 12 hours. She says she’s ready to feel or see the joy again. Maybe both. He tells her that he is okay if it’s only ever just the two of them.
At midnight mass, Laurel talks to the moms of several foster kids. (The same mom she talked to earlier). They tell Laurel and co briefly about their experience and how they’ve adopted some of their foster children. And she tells Laurel it’s been so rewarding. She also tells Laurel they have tons of clothes if they ever decide to foster older children. During the service, Laurel tells Will she has something she wants to run by Will. Oh, and guess who’s singing at the service? (Spoiler, it’s Mercy.) Side note: I don’t get this plot point. Are they all dead? So now Mercy and Gloria are actually together but she died when she was young? Is this in a book I could read?
On Christmas morning, Gloria shares one last gift with Will and Laurel. It’s a beautiful quilt. Then, Will gets a call from Nancy. Poor Nancy is working on Christmas Day. There is a 6 year old girl named Kelly that needs to be placed. So yeah. The phone rings A LOT QUICKER when you’re open to more than just babies.
Flash forward 3 years later to the TALLEST 9-year-old girl I’ve ever seen. And there’s a baby boy in the mix too. Was he a foster baby or did they actually get pregnant and have a baby? They all wear matching jammies. Then Helen comes in with her own festive jammies. And NOBODY CRIES. Not a soul.
And Mrs. Merkel heads to the next house.
Whew you guys. This movie REALLY took me on a journey. If you’ve been reading these for the last couple years, you know the foster care stories really get me. I did not expect to like this one or find it memorable at all. But it got me RIGHT IN THE FEELS. What did you think?