Everyone has a favorite Christmas movie. Mine is “A Christmas Story”. You know the one about Ralphie and his quest for an authentic “Red Ryder 200 shot carbine action BB gun”, as he so precisely describes it. I identify so closely with everything about this movie that it could have been about me.
The movie was shot in a suburb of Cleveland I think, but it might as well have been my old hometown of East Hartford, Connecticut. My neighborhood looked just like Ralphie’s, a solid, working class collection of weathered two and three-story houses. Nothing fancy, in fact a little grimy, but who knew better. Certainly not the kids. Anyway, it was winter and the snow covered what was ugly and made it all beautiful. I grew up during the same era, or perhaps just a few years later. But as I watch this movie, and I do watch it every year around this time, the memories come flooding back so vividly that it seems like yesterday.
I remember those ridiculous snowsuits and galoshes. I couldn’t even move in them, never mind look cool to my classmates. We had a coal furnace in our house that acted up occasionally too, although I don’t remember my dad swearing quite as much as Ralphie’s dad when he had to fix it. I can even remember sticking my tongue to a metal pole during winter. Man was that stupid! I’m embarrassed to tell anyone how many times I got my mouth washed out with soap, but it was a bunch. You know, I think I must have had the same daydream as Ralphie – going blind from soap poisoning to make my parents sorry for their harsh discipline. And I guess it is part of growing up, but almost every kid has to deal with a Scott Farcus. Bullies will always be with us. It’s how we deal with them that sits in our memories forever.
The memories that this movie triggers in me are one thing. But it’s the humanity and love within the characters that really registers with me. Ralphie’s mom tastes the soap herself after disciplining her son. Punishment may be necessary but it is not something she enjoys. And she is the first adult on the scene following the Scott Farcus incident, to break up the fight and later deflect any possible wrath from Ralphie’s dad. We understand and even feel sorry for the bully. He has nothing left after someone stands up to him, not even the comfort of a loving parent. He’s just a little kid again, but maybe not as lucky as you and me. And I just love the scene near the end of the movie, after the turkey disaster and after the destruction of dad’s “major award” (did mom do it on purpose?) and after the excitement of Christmas and the presents and after the kids have settled down for the night, mom and dad share a quiet moment together. They embrace and watch the snow fall through the living room window. All is forgiven and all is right with the world. Just like I always knew it was within my own family.
Yes, Ralphie got his BB gun in the end, “the best present he ever got or would ever get”. But anyone who has seen this movie even once knows there is more to it than that. His real gift was one he received every single day – being part of a loving and supporting family, having good friends, and enjoying the opportunity to grow up in an environment of endless possibilities.
CDA Inc and I extend a sincere wish to all of our clients and friends – Have a wonderful Holiday and a New Year full of endless possibilities!