Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movies I Grew Up With: A Christmas Story

First, I must say Merry Christmas to each and all of you...or Merry Xmas...or Happy Hanukkah...or Happy Kwaanza...or Happy whatever it is you celebrate this time of year. Glad you took a minute or two to stop by here and see what I've got going on today. Now let's get down to stretching that two minutes into three or four.




Early in November of 1983 I saw something so subversive on TV that it immediately piqued my interest. I was only twelve, but already "too cool" for all those corny Christmas flicks everyone watched every year. I really couldn't care if I watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ever again. Therefore, something so obviously against the grain was going to be right up my alley. It was a commercial for a movie that I didn't even catch the name of. What I saw was Santa Claus stepping on some kid's face and sending him down a slide. My eyes about popped out of my head and then I laughed hysterically. What should I call this greatness? I had no idea. Watching intently as whatever program I was watching went to commercial was my only option. Of course, the rest of that day passed without me seeing this commercial again. Over the next week or two, I did manage to catch the commercial again and discovered the name of the movie. It was called A Christmas Story. Simple. Unfortunately, that's as close as I came to watching this movie for quite a while. I tried, but failed to convince Mom to take us to see it in theaters. She was working all the time and my begging game wasn't quite up to par on this one. Soon, the commercial stopped airing and A Christmas Story was forgotten about.

The following autumn, I stayed over a buddy's house one night. We stayed up for hours playing ColecoVision, This was cutting edge on the gaming scene. My Atari 2600 couldn't compete, at least from a graphics standpoint. I was totally enamored with it. How could I not be? My 2600 baseball looked like this...



while ColecoVision baseball looked like this...


Case closed.

Anyhoo, after we finally got tired of that, we actually caught a late night viewing of Videodrome on HBO, which blew both of our minds. To be honest, I'm not sure we had any idea what we watched, but it sure as hell was different (check out my review from when I revisited it). The next morning, we weren't quite ready to dive back into ColecoVision so we decided to check out another movie. Back to HBO we went. Lo and behold, A Christmas Story was just starting up. We then proceeded to laugh for the next 90 minutes as Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) had many of the same misadventures we had, plus had to wear some bunny pajamas. and lusted after a Red Ryder BB Gun. Meanwhile, Mom (Melinda Dillon) and Dad (Darren McGavin) argued over a lamp shaped like a woman's leg. Of course, my favorite moment was the one from the commercial: Santa kicking Ralphie down the slide.


I watched this movie two or three more times over the next year or two. Each time, I loved it, but didn't realize how much of it went over my head. I let it fade away, not watching it for years after that. In fact, I was well into adulthood when I went back to it. This happened rather accidentally, too. I just so happened to be up late one night during the back end of TNT's (back then) 24 hour marathon of just this movie. I watched it, or most of it since it was really late, and laughed when I wasn't dozing off. This was 1997 or '98, not sure which. In either case, my job was doing Secret Santa. As luck would have it, the person who drew my name wanted to make sure they got something I would actually want and asked me what they should buy me. Naturally, I said A Christmas Story on DVD. She did, and I watched it at a decent hour so I could catch the whole thing. Every moment of it was perfect.

Utterly perfect.

All of the bits I remembered as funny from my childhood still made me laugh. So much of it brought back childhood memories. Though they weren't modeled after a bunny, I certainly had a pair of Onesies" pajamas that I just hated. I didn't see it, but several of my friends confirmed that one of the kids in our circle did indeed get his tongue stuck to a metal pole. I never had a BB gun, but I was warned a thousand times to stop doing something before I shot my eye out. And I really did beat up the school bully. I didn't pound him out like Ralphie, but I definitely won the fight. On top of that, the whole thing is just ridiculously quotable.


What really enhanced the movie for me was the relationship between Ralphie's parents and their relationship with him. By now, I was a married adult with a child. The nuances of those relationships became clearer to me. I revisited the movie just about every year and those things crystallized to the point of perfect clarity. I've had two more children since then and have introduced all three of my clan to it, as well. I'm grinning from ear-to-ear as I type this: they get it. They really get it. We sit and watch together and they laugh nearly as much as I. It's become our favorite Christmas movie and I don't think anything else is really close.

That annual viewing actually hasn't happened this year. Not as a group, anyway. As I was preparing to leave for a set of errands I had to run a couple days ago, my youngest began watching it. I told her I wanted to watch it, too. However, she couldn't wait for me. She went ahead and watched it as I was out and about. No worries, though. After we rip open a couple of presents this morning, I'm going to slyly slip this into the DVD player, start watching and hope they join me. Wish me luck.

By the way, while sitting here typing this I stubbed my toe. It made me say 'Oh fudge!' Only I didn't say 'fudge.' I said THE word, the big one, the queen mother of dirty words, the 'F dash dash dash' word! Don't worry. I'll be okay. You just run along and enjoy spending the day with your family. I triple-dog dare you.

8 comments:

  1. I also watch A Christmas Story every year. I like to catch some of the 24 hour marathon, but if I'm going to be some place where I can't tune in I take the DVD along with me so I can still get in a viewing.

    - Cody

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    1. Very cool. Always happy to see someone else giving this movie lots of love.

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  2. Nice post! A Christmas Story is always a must for me during the holidays. I was always kind of disappointed as a kid that the Santa at my mall didn't have a slide.

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    1. Thanks. My mall Santa didn't have one, either. Sucks, don't it? Then again, maybe not. I probably would've been permanently scarred had he kicked me down it.

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  3. Merry Christmas Dell! Y'know I almost watched A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve but decided on a Christmas-themed superhero movie instead. Sounds like a charming movie though, one day I should check it out!

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    1. Merry Christmas, Ruth! It is very charming so give it a shot.

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  4. I feel like 'A Christmas Story' is our generation's 'It's a Wonderful Life.' I love this movie. I watch it every Christmas.

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    1. Absolutely! Only better. Yup, I said that.

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