Over the past several years, Dad and I have developed a new tradition. Each year when I travel to Illinois to spend the holidays with family, we set aside a time to watch “A Christmas Story” on TV. This classic film chronicles an All-American 1940′s era Northern Indiana family at Christmastime. The plot revolves around the oldest boy, Ralphie, who is determined to get a genuine Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. At every turn he is thwarted. When Ralphie’s mother learns about his wish, she exclaims, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Believing his only hope is Santa, Ralphie waits in line at the local department store to see the big guy. Finally, after hours of waiting, he climbs on Santa’s lap and pleads for his gun, to which Santa caustically replies, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
Although the film is set a number of years before I appeared on the scene, it is peppered with scenes that take me back to my childhood. Anyone who has lived in the Midwest will remember being bundled up in snowsuits and layers of clothes so thick that you could barely move. Or having your mouth washed out with soap. Or listening to your Old Man grumble and occasionally swear over a temperamental furnace. (Ours was fueled by coal. Every few days, all winter long, my father had to shovel coal into the maw of a stoker down in the basement. He hated that furnace and I’m sure more than a few swear words were muttered over it).
Ralphie’s Old Man is no exception; he has a love/hate relationship with the furnace, which regularly belches smoke from the bowels of the cellar as he bangs on it with a wrench. When he’s not battling the furnace, the Old man is admiring his “major award” (a lamp shaped like a woman’s leg), a prize from a contest that he proudly displays on a table in the home’s front window, to the everlasting embarrassment of his wife. Meanwhile, mom is consumed with making sure the Old Man doesn’t come near her turkey, and Ralphie is double-dog-daring his friend to lick a metal flagpole in freezing temperatures.
Dad and I loved the movie from the very first time we saw it. Following that initial viewing, we had to search the TV guide each year for the days and times it was scheduled to be broadcast. But for the past couple of years, one of the stations has broadcast the film for 24 hours straight. Since this is the 25 year anniversary of the film I assumed that this year would be no different, but Dad just scrolled through the TV guide and we haven’t yet been able to find it. We’re hoping that this year’s marathon will begin after 5 p.m., when people get home from work.
If you have never seen “A Christmas Story,” do yourself a favor and watch it with family or other loved ones. I defy you to watch this movie without dissolving into fits of laughter at least a dozen times. In fact, I triple dog dare you!