Yesterday I spent Christmas day like a lot of other people did. Watching A Christmas Story on loop for 24 hours.
I have watched this movie ever since I was a kid. I would catch it on television a half dozen times or so between Thanksgiving to Christmas and watch it no matter what part of the movie I happened to find it at. Back then I had to flip through a paper television guide to find the channels and times that it would start.
In 1997 TNT began airing the 24 hour marathon every Christmas Day, but it was only a few years ago that I realized the whole key to the story isn’t Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.
The key to the entire story is Ralphie’s old man.
We obviously start the movie with Ralphie and he immediately tells us about the gun that he wants for Christmas. We spend the rest of the movie with Ralphie as he plans a way to make sure that gun is under the tree come Christmas morning. He tells his parents. He asks Santa. He writes a theme. He tries everything.
When we see Ralphie’s old man he is usually in the background. Fighting with the furnace. Thawing out the Oldsmobile. Completing a puzzle for a chance to win a major award.
Generally whenever we see Ralphie’s old man he is pretty much clueless as to what is going on with his kids. He is a hardworking man that is doing everything he can to pay the bills and provide for his family while his wife takes care of the kids.
Honestly, I never payed much attention to Ralphie’s old man when watching the movie. He seemed like the stereotypical hard working father that most middle class families had.
But Ralphie’s father is genuinely a great guy. He jokes with his kids at the dinner table. He takes them to the parade. He is in the Christmas Spirit when shopping for a tree. And when Ralphie says the Ef Dash Dash Dash word he is upset, but lets a little smirk spread across his face as Ralphie gets back in the car.
And when Ralphie discovers his hopes have not been dashed and there is a Red Ryder BB gun hidden on the side of the desk you see nothing but happiness and joy splashed across his old man’s face. He is excited to watch his kid open the gift and see the joy that it brings him.
And not only that, but you realize that even when he is cursing at the furnace or trying to glue the leg lamp back together or fighting with the Bumpuses dogs that he is aware of his family’s desires and they are his first priority. He wants nothing more than for them to be happy and enjoy the little things in life.
I think about that every time I watch A Christmas Story.
And when the credits roll for the twelfth time at 8:00 PM on Christmas Night I know it is all over ’till next year.