Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Story




It was the start of Christmas Break and snow was falling in huge flakes. Mr. Hunt drove me home in his old truck and I hopped out with a Good-bye and a Merry Christmas and See ya next week. I'd spent the evening babysitting his little boy and had a five-dollar bill to show for my time; money for presents.

My whole family was in bed asleep. Marshall had come home earlier that night from the Savior of the World Seminary he attended for high school. I was sad that he wasn't awake because I looked up to him terribly; his incredible wit and calm sense of humor always made me forget any troubles.

A note was stuck on the Betamax video player: Watch this movie. It's hilarious! I always had trouble sleeping after a round of taking care of the brattiest kid on earth. Ryan was a three-year-old terror with flaxen hair and cold blue eyes. He was an ADHD Cujo and I don't know why I agreed to spend every Friday night chasing him around: part of my martyr complex and the money was sweet.

I made a sandwich and popped in the movie. Our black and white flared to life after I jiggled its grimy knob (I'd developed a hyper ability to convert grays and blacks into colors a millisecond after an image met my retinas). Strains of Deck the Halls threaded through the credits drawn out in old-fashioned letters: A Christmas Story. Wasn't that the movie my cousin and his date walked out of after only a few minutes? They said it was the dumbest movie they'd ever seen. I saw the familiarity of a small town much like mine: red brick school; snow-packed alleyways with bullies at your heel; a father shouting hybrid obscenities; failed reports at school; the unmet desire to be loved and heralded by your grade school teacher; beautiful, sparkling Christmas—every child's dream. And weaved in all that, Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite—my favorite to this day.

And the lines:

NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a "triple dare you"? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.
I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!
Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!

and

Strange. Even something as momentous as the Scut Farkus affair, which it came to be known, was pushed out of my mind as I struggled to come up with a way out of the impenetrable BB gun web, in which my mother had me trapped.
Santa. Yeah, I'll ask Santa.
Of course. Santa. The big man. The head honcho. The connection. Ha, my mother had slipped up this time.

and

The snap of a few sparks, a quick whiff of ozone, and the lamp blazed forth in unparalleled glory.

and

Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it's zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters decend upon us.

From Raphie's Pulitzer Prize winning report:

I want a red rider 200 shot carbine action range model air rifle with a compass and this thing which tells time built right in the stock.


I think the reason people love A Christmas Story so much is because they've all been there in Ralphie's shoes. We've all been that child who wanted something bigger than life to take us out of our own existence, or at least, make it seem more special. We've all walked home from school in the beginning amber tones of falling day and felt that desolation and joy of living. We've all lain awake wishing our parents would feel sorry for our miseries. We've all woken up to a cathedral of ice; Christmas magic woven in every branch and blade.

Jean Shepherd captured his youth so well, with both satire and tenderness. He re-voiced Ralphie and made each character flawed in such a common way, so that it was endearing. We knew these people, we've been in their house, we've felt the warmth of their grumbling furnace and misplaced carpet runners. Even Scut Farcus, the squint-eyed toady, is someone we can be jolly about—alleyways and bullies have been replaced by digital antagonists in the Xbox generation.

Ralphie teaches us all a good lesson: keep trying. Even when your parents, your teacher, Santa, the whole world tells you to secede, keep trying. There might be a shining red box behind the table in the corner. Just don't shoot your eye out, kid.

6 comments:

  1. I think he should have his Red Rider 200 shot carbine. I quadruple-dog-dare you to wrap it so it looks like a slice of cheesecake; just to fool old Ralphie.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Keep trying, indeed. Great lesson.

    Happy Christmas, Amy! xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. That would be one heck of a long cheesecake!

    Merry Christmas to both of you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I used to want a Ray-Gun when I was a kid. Nice story, Amy. X

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Tom. I'm just guessing you didn't get that gun, haha.xx

    ReplyDelete
  6. No - I didn't get the goldfish bowl over my head to go with it either.

    ReplyDelete