The beginning of my “Bucket List” starts with a quote from Dorothy Parker: “I’m never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don’t do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don’t even do that anymore.”
I don’t really know what I’m doing anymore.
I started painting my nails to keep me from biting them, maybe I should break out the polish remover so I can prove I’m good at something.
Oddly enough, my current melancholic state made me do something a bit strange a few hours ago. I decided to watch A Christmas Story–one of the few DVDs I was able to smuggle out of the house and into my dorm room out from under my brother’s nose (also included were Gran Torino and Elf.)
A Christmmas Story is a holiday classic that’s watched at least 15 times in my house between Thanksgiving and Christmas—and even a handful of times after the holiday season is gone. Nothing says “flu bug recovery” like a bowl of soup and A Christmas Story.
The movie’s hero, Ralphie, is on a mission to get the greatest Christmas gift a nine-year-old boy in 1940’s Indiana could get: a genuine Red Ryder 200 shot Carbine Action Rifle. And so, he sets out to make his case to everyone from his parents to Santa himself. Unfortunately, for Ralphie, everyone from his parents to Santa himself all respond the same: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Along with Ralphie’s efforts to get a Red Ryder BB gun, his older, narrating self tells the tales of countless boyhood troubles and memories of that winter (some of the best writing and film narration ever in my opinion) which include triple dog dares on the playground, fights with the neighborhood bully, dropping the F-bomb in front of his dad, and of course the infamous Leg Lamp (“It’s an award!”). There are also several scenes from Ralphie’s own nine-year-old imagination, such as being blind by the age of twenty-one because of all the soap his mouth has been washed out with and receiving a standing ovation for turning in the best theme paper in his class. I think this movie is one of my favorites because the characters all experience things that are universal. (“It is a truth universally acknowledge…” I’m starting to find ways to work that into everything, which is a little disconcerting if I’m being honest. Think it’s time to retire my copy of Pride and Prejudice.)
When I was younger, we lived in the “Great Northwest.” One of the things that supposedly makes the Northwest so great is their amazing, picturesque winters. I don’t remember what was so amazing about them. Picturesque? Sure. Cover anything in blankets of white snow, especially things that are green and leafy in nature, and it’s picturesque. Amazing? No. They were filled with bone chilling cold, snow banks as tall as I was, and bulky snow suits that practically suffocated you. Oh those snowsuits. A Christmas Story is chalk full of scenes revolving around what is referred to as “Snowsuit Paralysis.”
Anyone who’s ever lived in a place that gets a ton of snowfall during the winter is more than likely familiar with this unfortunate phenomena, which occurs when a parent wraps you up in not only layers of warm winter clothes, but an extra jacket and two pairs of thick socks before stuffing you in one of those God-awful snowsuits that are filled with at least a foot of stuffing and make that horrible scratching noise when you move—if you can move. Armies of children are shoved out the door and into that “amazing” winter wonderland looking eerily similar to the Staypuft Marshmallow man that attacked New York in Ghostbusters.
Actually, Mr. Staypuft had more mobility than I ever did.
My friends here in Arizona laugh at Ralphie’s poor littler brother Randy when we watch this movie; making fun of his marshmallow impersonation until their sides are sore and they can hardly breathe. While the images are quite laughable, I can’t help but to jump to the kid’s defense.
Those who have lived through, and survived, Snowsuit Paralysis know better than to mock the plights of others.
Another scene I can relate to from this movie is Ralphie’s decoder pin debacle. After drinking endless glasses of Olvatine and sending in those coupons, Ralphie gets that Little Orphan Annie Decoder Pin—only to find that it was a disappointing gimmick.
We’ve all had our share of Little Orphan Annie Decoder Pins. Mine came in the form of a color changing, plastic cereal spoon. The Frosted Flakes packaging promised it would turn blue in cold cereal and red in hot cereal. Any seven-year-old would have been thrilled to have a color changing spoon like that; which is why I ate an entire box of the sugary corn flake goodness in two days in search of that spoon buried deep within the box (I had yet to learn that if you opened the box from the bottom, you could just pull the prize out and avoid the hunt). The next morning, I put my cereal in the microwave—I wasn’t a big fan of oatmeal—and stuck my spoon in the mushy mixture, waiting for the bright fire engine red (my favorite color) just like the box promised. After ten whole minutes of waiting, the spoon was still clear and I was left with a mixture of Frosted Flake and milk sludge and a distrust of anything on the back of a cereal box.
But, being seven-years-old, that distrust didn’t last. I was too enthralled by the toy submarine in the Cocoa Puffs box I found a week later.
And, of course, A Christmas Story wouldn’t be a holiday movie without a scene from Christmas morning—the highlight of any Christmas celebrating child’s year. The array of brightly colored packages underneath the tree hold the promise of great things; but as with anything, appearances can be deceiving.
In every family, there is that one relative that always gives you the embodiment of an embarrassing gift—usually something clothing related. In the movie, Ralphie’s Aunt Clara sends him a bunny pajama set with matching slippers; the color of which puts Pepto Bismol to shame. The look on his face when he has to model that suit must have been what I looked like the year I received The Sweater.
I’m sure my grandmother’s intentions were pure, but it was the ugliest sweater any twelve-year-old could have been expected to wear. The woolen material was covered in bright, horizontal stripes that clashed in a way that induced nausea and made your head spin. The almost florescent orange, yellow, green, red, and blue shades will forever be seared into my subconscious as a reminder of why I now ask for gift cards.
Sadly, I couldn’t burn The Sweater like I had planned to. I had to wear it whenever I went to my grandparents’ house.
Watching A Christmas Story is a reminder that some things are just universal; they happen to everyone. There is undoubtedly someone else in the world that has a relative that gives them horrific clothes during the holidays, suffered Snowsuit Paralysis, hit a wrong note in an orchestra audition, tripped over a flat surface, and everything else in between. This movie also reminds me that no matter how awful something may seem, things will inevitably look up. It’s almost like the overly used rollercoaster analogy: Life has its ups and downs, it’s a given. The best thing to do is sit back and enjoy the ride (maybe I should consider sleep now that I’ve used a “life is like a roller coaster” cliche…)
And so, gentle readers, I find myself closing this post on a somewhat optimistic note. I’m not really feeling it at the moment, but maybe if I read this over tomorrow I might feel a bit better about things, we’ll see. If not, I’ll just listen to this song on loop:
And I’ll still probably have nail polish free nails tomorrow.