Merry Christmas!

Last night I watched A Christmas Story, the only holiday movie I’ve watched more than once or twice. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve seen it: at least once all the way through every year, and even more in segments. I can turn it on at any point and know exactly what’s going on. In fact it’s playing in the background right now.

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Santa BearI love this movie because I see so much of my own childhood in it. Oh, not the BB gun, or the bully Scut Farkas. But the nerdy little kid? That was me, frequently broken glasses and all.

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I grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee in the 1950s, a few years after the movie setting (I think—the year is never specified and the world outside Ralphie’s immediate view is never mentioned).

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I grew up walking to school in a snowsuit that barely bent at the joints. I lived in a house much like the Parkers’. We had a coal furnace, although it was better behaved than the one Ralphie’s Old Man fought with. The school room, the clothes, the weather, all bring back memories.

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I grew up listening to the radio, my mother’s favorite source of entertainment, even after my grandfather gave us an early TV set with a roundish screen about ten inches across. “Little Orphan Annie” was before my time, I think, and I never sent away for an official decoder ring, but I did drink Ovaltine.

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My dad worked at an advertising agency in downtown Milwaukee, and on Thanksgiving we would join all the families in the business in the office, several floors above the main drag to watch the big parade and the arrival of Santa Claus (back in those days the Christmas season did not begin before Halloween!). That is, the kids watched the parade from the office windows. I suspect the adults were across the hall drinking martinis.

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Ralphie’s ambitions for his theme ring a big bell. Heck, I still hope for a rousing reception for my written words (and I’m just as disappointed as Ralphie when the praise doesn’t materialize).

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And his daydreams! Mine didn’t involve creeping marauders or a Red Ryder air rifle, but I definitely lived in them (and sometimes coerced my friends into acting them out).

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And, of course, the broken glasses. I spent a large part of my childhood wearing glasses held together with tape at the bridge. I don’t remember ever breaking a lens, but I was hell on frames.

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So did Ralphie grow up to be a writer? Of course he did—he grew up to be Jean Shepherd. Thank you, Mr. Shepherd, for all the stories, and thanks to the movie crew for a treat that makes my holiday brighter every year.

Merry Christmas!

Santa Bear

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Merry Christmas!

This handsome little fellow reads Twas the Night Before Christmas when his left foot is squeezed, but today I’ve asked him to recite my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, especially for my many friends who are writers, published and unpublished, traditional and independent, print and digital.  Here’s to an exciting year for all of us.

Santa Bear

We wish you a Merry Christmas,

We wish you a Merry Christmas,

We wish you a Merry Christmas,

and a Happy New Year.

Good tidings we wish for you and your tales,

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

O bring us some lovely contracts,

O bring us some lovely contracts,

O bring us some lovely contracts,

And bring them right soon.

Good tidings we wish for you and your tales,

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We’ll write on until we’ve made sales,

We’ll write on until we’ve made sales,

We’ll write on until we’ve made sales,

And then we’ll write more.

Good tidings we wish for you and your tales,

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

It’s a season for writing,

It’s a season for writing,

It’s a season for writing,

and a time of good books.

Good tidings we wish for you and your tales,

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.