George Bailey woke up just before noon on Christmas Day. He needed the sleep. Events from the day before — with Uncle Billy’s bungling, the Bank Examiner, the fight with Mary, the angel Clarence, and the world Clarence showed him — were enough to give most men a stroke. Then, as all ended well, too much champagne and liquor flowed. George was truly hung over.
But George wasn’t the only one starting the day late. Mary and the kids, even on Christmas Day, were just rising. Santa could wait after all the excitement of the night before.
So George was out of his dire situation. While the money Potter filched had not been recovered, the gifts of cash, like the champagne, flowed. More than enough money and good will had been accumulated to make the Bank Examiner realize there could have been no duplicity. All was well. He could go back to Elmira and spend Christmas with his family.
Yes, all was well. For now. George knew he would enjoy this Christmas more than any in recent years. It would be fun talking to Harry about the action he saw in the war, never mind getting to meet with President Truman. Then he thought again of Harry and the nice life he would go back to in Rochester, running his father-in-law’s company. George felt no resentment, but the thought gave him pause.
Tomorrow George would go back to the Building and Loan with all the books balanced. People would still be festive over the special happening that brought the town together this Christmas. But it would be the same Building and Loan. There would still be the same struggles each month to make things add up. There would still be the worries over the costs of pipes and bricks.
He’d still be in Bedford Falls. He and Mary never had that honeymoon. They had never gone anywhere. No Egyptian Pyramids. No archeological digs. He had even let his National Geographic subscription lapse. The Bank Examiner’s Elmira sounded exotic to him now.
Clarence was right. George Bailey had done such good for many people. Pottersville would not be a happy place, with all his friends living in slum-like conditions. But he was a bit interested in Pottersville’s night life. Lots of good music. Maybe someone like Louis Armstrong might play there. Oh, well, maybe George would just break down and buy a new phonograph to play his old 78s. Those records with Louis singing Fats Waller’s songs. “Man,” George said to himself, “there are enough great songs by Fats to make a musical. Those songs will be sung forever. I bet there’s some kid, even in Belfast, who’ll years from now, be singing his songs.”
So George decided he’d get that phonograph the next day. That’s as lively as he can make things in Bedford Falls.