Listening to the Ghosts of Christmas Past

16 Dec

The older I get, the more I understand why this time of year is hard for people. It seems that everywhere I turn, people have just lost loved ones, or are losing them. I hear about it at church, at work, and at home. I was reminded of this fact when I recently watched the Millenium episode “Midnight of the Century”, which was a story about making amends with the people who should matter most to us before it is too late.

Thus far, I have been fortunate, and I haven’t lost a loved one at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hear my own ghosts talking to me this time of year.

Every time Christmas draws near, I perform my own very personal Christmas tradition. After the boys are in bed, I go to the bedroom, shut the door, and watch A Christmas Story. But I’m not alone.

My Dad was a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon. And Christmas generally brought forth his best humbugginess. While I figured out he liked the family aspect of Christmas, and the gatherings with close and distant relatives alike, but the commercialism, and the constant emphasis on everything else brought forth the grumps. My Mom was the “Keeper of the Holiday” as I grew up. SHE put up the tree. SHE bought and wrapped gifts (although Dad usually did get her something nice that she knew nothing about), and SHE was the one who would make sure I got to watch the endless parade of Christmas movies and specials.

And then came A Christmas Story.

My Old Man was not big on fiction. A science teacher by trade, his interests usually centered on non-fiction reading, and reality based entertainment. But, the one of the very few exceptions was Jean Sheppard. Among his prized possessions was a beat-up, dog-eared copy of Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, the tome of Jean Sheppard short stories which included A Christmas Story.

And when this movie came on television, my Dad the curmudgeon would watch it.

And he would laugh.

When I was a kid, I didn’t get it. The movie wasn’t funny, and the world that it portrayed wasn’t pretty, shiny, glossy, and everything that a kid is attracted to in a film world. But the years passed, and with each year, my Dad would watch it, and laugh. And eventually, I got it.

My kids have no appreciation for it, and my wife hates it, but I get it. And now, I watch it alone, on some dark evening before Christmas, and I spend time with my Dad. I hear his laugher, and the person that he was echos in Darrin McGavin’s portrayal of the Old Man, especially in how Christmas Day unfolded with the quiet, unspoken love that too many fathers can never share out loud with their sons, and the way they can savor what they have, enjoying the fact that it will never be “perfect”, and yet will always be just right.

My major regret is that I never thanked Dad for allowing me to learn that trick from the example when he was still alive. And yet, it feels like when I watch it with him now, he just knows, and gives me the smile that says he knows.

40 Responses to “Listening to the Ghosts of Christmas Past”

  1. Jay in Ames December 16, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    Nice story, BiW. I’m a Christmas Story fan, myself. And no, I have not shot my eye out.


  2. roamingfirehydrant December 16, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    I’ve been looking for it on cable and haven’t found it yet. Netflix did have “Miracle on 34th Street”.

  3. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story, BisW. I have the movie, and it’s a tradition here, along with many others. My kids didn’t care for it at first, but having witnessed the trials and tribulations of the Hispanic side of the family, they get it now. And they laugh, and see that families are really universal in some things.

  4. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    And….. GOOD MORNING!!!!

  5. Jay in Ames December 16, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Does TBS still show it over and over all day on Christmas?

  6. Jay in Ames December 16, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    Anyone else think Perry had a good night last night? Guess I know who to vote for on Jan 3rd.

  7. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    BiW, as “The Old Man” says in that movie, “He knows……he always knows……”

    Your dad knows, too.

  8. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    *looks around, realizes she’s one of the few consistently on here who has grown kids*

    It’s something you CAN’T understand until your kids have gotten past a certain age, but there begins to come the knowledge that you are going to love your kids no matter what they may say to you in anger. And you learn a lot of forbearance and forgiveness, because you remember what you were like as a kid.

    And then they are adults, and they see the world through new eyes, and they begin to understand why you did the things you did (or didn’t) do, and your relationship deepens and becomes more wonderful than you ever imagined it could be.

    I am so fortunate that I have been able to see my girls become young women, and that my mom (and her mom) is still around.

  9. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    Oh – The Boy has never seen “A Christmas Story”, so DD#3 has INSISTED that he watch it while he is here.

    And, no – when she was a kid she didn’t care for it much, either; I think that you have to be a grown-up to appreciate all of the nuances in it.

    Mr. TiFW and I actually saw the movie in the theater (it bombed, as I recall) – before we ever had any kids. We kept telling anyone who would listen, “You’ve got to go see this movie – it’s so great!”. I’m glad that it has become a classic.

    And the funny thing is, there is something new that I related to each year as my kids got older and I got more seasoning as a grown-up/parent (especially the parts where Mom and The Old Man were trying to “give” their kids Christmas memories, and the kids didn’t want any part of it).

    It’s kinda neat to see my kids insisting that we watch it now…..

  10. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Here’s today’s Christmas music selections – there’s a decidedly “Cosmopolitan” feel to today’s post:

    My Advent Calendar of Music – Day #16: Happy Hour

  11. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Just finished the Open Thread at H&B, if y’all are interested.

    And you are. Admit it.

  12. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Did anyone catch this? Some guy was arrested in New York for declaring an unloaded gun in his luggage because his CCW license from California isn’t valid in NY. Oh, yeah- he’s a bigwig in the Tea Party Patriots group, so OF COURSE that was the first thing mentioned:

    Prosecutors charged Mark Meckler, the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, with felony weapons possession after he told a Delta ticket agent early Thursday morning that he had a weapon in his luggage.

    Meckler was carrying an unloaded Glock pistol and numerous rounds of ammunition in a locked gun box, according to multiple reports.

    Meckler’s attorney, Brian Stapleton, said Meckler had a concealed-carry permit for the gun issued by California, and that Meckler was in temporary transit through New York.

    But the California permit wasn’t valid in New York.

    “He legally declared his possession of the firearm in his checked baggage at the ticket counter as required by law and in a manner approved by TSA and the airline, yet was arrested by port authority for said possession,” Stapleton said in a statement.

  13. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Port authority is trying to teach someone a lesson.

    I hope this blows up in Bloomberg’s fucking face, too.

  14. Blackiswhite, Imperial Consigliere December 16, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    The rest of the story is, of course, that Jean Sheppard is no longer with us either. His narration of the story is an indispensible element, and the stories he wrote were priceless gems. The man was a national treasure, and he was never properly appreciated in his life.

  15. clintbird December 16, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I cannot believe you think it isn’t funny. The first 50 times or so I watched it, I howled. We love it!!!

  16. Jay in Ames December 16, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Wonders what clintbird is seeing RIGHT NOW!

  17. clintbird December 16, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Eyes still blurry.

  18. Blackiswhite, Imperial Consigliere December 16, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    The commenter the Chief landed on FB is priceless, ain’t she?

  19. Jay in Ames December 16, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    It’s like a cat having a pet mouse, isn’t it?

  20. Blackiswhite, Imperial Consigliere December 16, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    So much howling over name-calling while name-calling, sanctioning the beating, trying to claim the moral high ground when she surrendered it with her first comment…it might be cute if I didn’t believe that she actually thought she is right about any of it.

  21. TerribleTroy December 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    A Christmas Story has been a tradition here for at least 10 yrs with a distant second being The Santa Clause.

    Christmas is not on the top of my list for favorite holiday. In my childhood my family put the “funk” in dysfunction, and it was never really Christmas at my house until the folks had a knock down drag out fight and someone went to jail. This usually occurred Christmas Eve or Morning and it was a rare yr when this didn’t occur. Add to this our level of poverty and it just wasn’t much fun at all. Instead of waiting for Santa it was like waiting for the inevitable train wreck. For many years in my adulthood I made it a point to be “out of pocket” by volunteering to work, and since work was always on the road, I was able to avoid it altogether. The birth of my son put the kibash on that. Nowadays I put on the best act I can, but it always makes me feel inadequate. I can never give a gift that reflects the value of the relationship I feel for the recipient. My non-emotional side understands that this isn’t logical but it doesn’t dissuade the feeling. I do my best to keep those negative feeling internalized, but I must admit, my favorite part of Christmas is when it is over.

    My favorite part of the movie is when the narrator describes his fathers “work” in obscenities to be on the same level as a master artist that works with canvas and paint. THAT is something I can easily relate with.

    SPF !!!ELEVENTY!!!

  22. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Guess who now has “Pretty Nails!”

    (I should have known that she had been quiet for WAAAAY too long; I didn’t, however, know that sister had left her nail polish in Rebecca’s playroom)

    And not a bottle of Nail Polish Remover in the house…..

  23. Jay in Ames December 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Was that an F-bomb I heard, TiFW?

  24. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    ZOMG!! SPF, Teresa!!

    Although I do hope it is a Christmassy color.

  25. TerribleTroy December 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    A bit late but gasoline will do the trick TiFW, so will WD-40. Oh and today was the last day of skeewl here until after the 1st. At this moment I have approx 7 to 10 12 yr old boys running wild on my block. This means DOG is NOT HAPPY and I get to listen to him whine that its not “fair” that I wont let him eat them (or at the very least knock them down and hump them).

  26. Jay in Ames December 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Kinda like this, TT?

  27. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Poor DOG….

    Give him a treat, Troy. Preferably a stray cat 😉

  28. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Listening to Chris Isaak makes me want to drink Tang™…

  29. TerribleTroy December 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Whut? And ruin his Christmas Aggie? Every Christmas I let him off at the cat lady’s house on the other side of town. The paper the next day normally reads “Vicious DOG enters elderly womens house, eats three cats, sexually molests four others, urinates on Xmas tree and defecates on sofa before running off.” Quoted the lady last year ” I just don’t know why this keeps happening, its almost like he knows its Xmas!”

    This year DOG has asked to be taken to the closest OWS encampment. He changed his mind after I told him I would, but that he’d have to be dipped and tested before being allowed back in the house.

  30. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    its almost like he knows its Xmas!


    And I think the OWS camp would have been awful for DOG. Think of the germs!!

  31. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Sorry – had to get some tech support for my printer; my new-ish laptop refuses to “talk” to my old-ish printer, so from time to time I have to download new drivers…..

    PIA, but the printer is still in excellent shape otherwise, there’s not any “disposable” income in the TiFW house between the van payment and the college loans, and I just can’t see dropping more money on a new printer until this one gives up the ghost entirely.

    Anyway, Rebecca at least did a “passable” job on her nails; fine motor skills are still an issue, so she “colored outside the lines”, and she’s not very patient, so everything got smeared….

    It is pink.

  32. LC Aggie Sith December 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Don’t worry, Teresa. Whatever she painted on her skin will wash off just fine 🙂

  33. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 16, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Oh, I know – that’s why I didn’t hit the ceiling. It was more of a heavy sigh…..

  34. MCPOAIR December 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Wonderful story, BiW.

  35. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX December 17, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Car in was feeling poorly yesterday, so I’ll fill in for her:
    Wakey wakey!

    Here’s my shameless blogwhoring for the day:

    My Advent Calendar of Music – Day #17: A (Mostly) Acoustical Christmas

  36. TerribleTroy December 17, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I’ve always wondered about the phrase “under the weather”…. seems to me we are always under the weather….. I guess pilots could be over the weather but eventually they have to come back down. Its little stuff like that that makes me go Hmmmmmm…..and yes I can be easily distracted.

    For today yall get SPF!! and BOOBIES!

  37. Blackiswhite, Imperial Consigliere December 17, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Thank you, Chief.

    I think tonight will be the night for this year.

  38. LC Aggie Sith December 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Troy, boobies await you at H&B.


    And hope y’all are having a great day so far!

  39. TerribleTroy December 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Been there Aggie. A very nice selection indeed! Why they are…TTITYERIFIC! or BOOBIELICIOUS! or …….

  40. LC Aggie Sith December 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm #


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