For those unfamiliar with Jean Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story”, it is the story of Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun. “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle,” exclaims Ralphie! The movie follows his adventures of trying to convince his parents, his teacher and the department store Santa Claus that this would be the perfect Christmas gift. (It also tells the story of his dad wining a “major prize” – the now infamous “leg lamp”.) When Christmas arrives, Ralphie scrambles to open his gifts but is disappointed when he doesn’t find the Red Ryder. As he sits on the couch trying not to show his sadness his father says, “What’s that by the desk?” The Red Ryder was hidden in the corner, out of view. When Ralphie see the box, he knows that his Christmas wish has come true.
(For those unaware, “A Christmas Story” was based on a collection of individual stories written by Jean Shepherd in the 1960’s. )
I also had my own “A Christmas Story” gift. It was 1963 and the toy was “Big Loo”. It was a robot that stood 3 feet tall. Just of few of it’s features were that it could talk, squirt water from its navel, was equipped with a compass, whistle, bell, a Morse code clicker with chart, and could bend over and pick up objects. For me, it was the greatest gift ever made. And when Christmas arrived, my big desire was also “hidden in the corner, out of view”. And when my Mom pointed out the box, I knew that my Christmas wish had come true.
Of all the toys I received when I was a child, that is the one I still have. Some gifts are too special to ever get rid of.
My Big Loo & me.
The family and I always head to Pennsylvania where there’s a particular tree farm that we love. We roam the farm searching for the right tree. Actually all of them are the right tree, it’s just that we want to “live” the experience for a few minutes. We wait all year for this moment and don’t want it to end too quickly. After we find the right tree, it’s time for our greasy, high-cholesterol, saturated fat and tasty breakfast at a restaurant.
Patiently waiting for Santa.
It’s almost that time!
Many years ago when my son Jason was around 5 years old (he’s 25 now), I thought it would be fun to put a single potato under the Christmas tree next to his gifts. The first time I did it, he pretty much ignored it, but that didn’t deter me. The following year I did it again and the year after that. I’m not sure when, but maybe when he was 7 he finally took notice and expressed his displeasure that Santa would leave a single potato for him. My response was to hit him with logic.
“You love french fries, don’t you?” I’d ask.
“Yea…” he’d say.
“So Santa wants to give you something that you enjoy eating along with the toys!”
He didn’t like that explanation.
After another couple of years, I decided to upgrade the single potato to a bag. That’s when Jason would really express his annoyance.
“Not again!” he moan and groan.
He’d immediately grab the bag of potatoes and hand it to me.
“I don’t want them!”
When my daughter eventually joined our Christmas celebration (she’ll be 20 next month), she didn’t show the same annoyance that Jason did. She simply accepted the bag of potatoes as part of the Christmas day.
Then a funny thing happened. A few years ago with Jason and Ashley being older I thought it time to retire the bag of potatoes. I thought that small part of the day had run it’s course so I didn’t put the bag under the tree. When Christmas morning arrived and we all got up to open our gifts, the first thing my daughter asked me (I think she was 17 at the time) was “Dad, where are the potatoes?”
I explained why they weren’t there, that I thought it was time to move on.
“No Dad, it’s not Christmas without the bag of potatoes,” was her answer.
(For the record, Jason was in a neutral corner concerning the affair.)
Well, the following year the bag of potatoes returned along with the smile on Ashley’s face.
Most families have traditions with respect to their Christmas day. Whether it’s how they prepare the meal or watching something special on television or spending the day with certain members of their family. In my house, it the bag of potatoes.
It’s the small stuff that makes the day special.
With Thanksgiving and Black Friday behind us – yes, I did hit the stores at 6 AM but without any real quest for a particular item – it was time to live the Norman Rockwell experience and cut down our Christmas tree. It’s always the first Saturday (or Sunday) in December. The family and I always head over to Pennsylvania where there’s a particular tree farm that we love. I roam the farm for about 20 minutes searching for the right tree. Actually all of them are the right tree, it’s just that I want to “live” the experience for a few minutes. I wait all year for this moment and I don’t want it to end too quickly. After we find the right tree – we buy two, one for the living room and the other one (smaller) is in my daughter’s room – it’s time for our greasy, high-cholesterol, saturated fat and tasty breakfast at a local restaurant. We do what we can to support the local economy.