Re-Mused*: The Greatest Story Ever Told

There’s one sure way for me to know if you are my kinda people or not.

You either get “A Christmas Story” or you don’t.

This is a key point in any relationship for me—friendship or intimate. If you don’t like it? I hope you are clever enough to realize that pretending to, or at least tolerating it, behooves us all.

My mom has learned that. Oh, she doesn’t dislike the movie. But she is quite disgusted by the scene where little brother Randy snorts like a pig and licks the mashed potatoes directly from the plate. Despite that, she gave me the DVD in my stocking one year and allows it to run on the television, neverending, on Christmas Eve when TBS has its marathon.

Where do I even begin to write about the greatness that is “A Christmas Story?”

First, let’s relive some of the most awesome gems from that classic:

  • Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.
  • You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
  • Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl.
  • In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.
  • 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.
  • My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.
  • You look like a deranged Easter Bunny.

The movie was made in 1983. I was 13 years old and up until then Christmas movies mostly meant claymation specials (Burgermeister Meisterburger! Heatmeiser!) where Santa made miracles happen for everybody and all enjoyed their merriest Christmas ever. Peter Billingsley was simply that kid on “Real People” (the first wave of reality television). And Jean Shepard? Absolutely no idea who he was or what NPR meant.

It hadn’t occurred to me that it was okay to satirize Christmas, never mind your entire family. Then came “A Christmas Story.” And suddenly I became the woman you see before you. Alright, maybe it took about 25 more years, but that was the beginning of it all.

Up until Ralphie, we’d all been told that Christmas was the most wonderful time of the year. We had to be good or Santa would know. It was about giving, not receiving. We wore velvet dresses, white tights, and patent leather shoes. We went to the Christmas Eve church service, sang in the choir even though we could not sing.

Christmas was picture-perfect. The family, gathered together. The golden-brown turkey. The eggnog in glass cups raised in toast. Rosy-cheeked children looking up into the fireplace for Santa.

That’s not Christmas, and you know it. Christmas is the family fighting over who is going to host. It’s mom stressing out for weeks at a time about what she’s going to make, how she’s going to pay for it, do we have seven different fishes for the Christmas Eve feast, what Nanny will say if the clams are not made exactly the way she usually makes them. It’s about the uncle that drinks too much and starts a fight. It’s about the kids whining that they can’t open the presents that are already under the tree. It’s about too much egg nog and the toast that insults Uncle Bob’s “friend,” Mike.

Sigh. Christmas is not picture-perfect. If it is, you’re not spending it with your family. And “A Christmas Story” made us all realize that. And relish it.

And wish, just once, we could spend Christmas Day eating Chinese turkey in the only restaurant in town that was open.

 

 

*This blog is a re-post of one of my favorites. Merry Christmas!

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