I’m sorry, Jean…

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I owe Jean Shepherd an apology. For several years I have been crediting Truman Capote with Jean’s story. A Christmas Story is one of my favorite holiday movies. For years I confused it with Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory.

Little Ralphie from the former story is how I pictured the character, Dill in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee and Capote were childhood friends and there are some who believe the character of Dill was based on Capote. Also, the narrator in the movie adaptation of Jean’s stories, reminded me of the narrator from Capote’s short story, My Side of the Matter. So you can understand, how I perpetuated the error for so many years. Can’t you?

Comparing the two stories, A Christmas Story and A Christmas Memory, it seems impossible to confuse the two. While both are good stories, the latter is much more sentimental and lacks the comic punch that makes the former one of my favorite holiday tales.

It could be age, but the only toy I remember really wanting when I was a child was Lone Ranger and Silver action figures. I would have liked to have Tonto too but it was really the Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver, that I was focused on. I remember being really excited when I opened the packages. I also remember one of Silver’s front legs breaking off at the knee. My grandmother and I patched it up with scotch tape but he was never the same again. I don’t remember what happened to the Lone Ranger. I think slowly pieces of his outfit began to disappear. He had his shirt and pants but his guns were missing, his white hat, red kerchief, his belt, and eventually his mask.

Babble published several posts that got me thinking about the holidays and the lack of fanfare my wife and I provide our kids regarding Christmas. Where my wife and I are bad parents is where we don’t celebrate enough. We are prone to forgetting our own anniversary and our own birthdays are celebrated quietly. We dress the kids up for Halloween and fight about whose parents’ house we are going to on Thanksgiving. This Christmas, we didn’t even bother with lights or a wreath on the door. We even didn’t get around to cards! At minimum, we usually manage that.

As a child, celebrating Christmas to my family meant that we were “being American.” Newly arrived and living the American Dream, I think it meant a lot to my parents to be able to have a “real American Christmas” with a tree, lights, tinsel, cards, and presents wrapped in shiny paper. With the exception of my grandmother (who passed away as a devout Christian several years ago), my family is not a religious one. We don’t go to church nor do we say grace before a meal.

Christmas was a commercial event with Coca Cola’s candle-lit chorus singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing…” the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Rockettes (who we never went to see live), Ice Capades, Rockefeller Center, Woolworth’s, and Macy’s. In college I railed against it but as I parent I have come to accept and even nurture it.

To me a commercial Christmas is one filled with the Toys-R-Us Toy Book and back-to-back Christmas specials on TV – How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated version), The Year Without A Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, and some of the new specials. I no longer find fault in a commercial Christmas. It is a Christian holiday that my wife and I happily celebrate because we live in America. We haven’t celebrated it together long enough to establish traditions. However, we are on the road to.

While my wife and I complain about the exhaustion, we relish seeing our families together this time of year. We like the lights and the sentiments of the holiday. We like the songs and some of the TV specials. We like the shared bonding experience with our neighbors and the city as a whole. Salutations or good-byes of “Happy Holidays!” is a phrase adopted by most if not all in the city this time of year.

My wife and I do not have strong opinions about God and Jesus and whether Santa Claus exists or not hasn’t been an issue for us. It was my eldest that told me Santa wasn’t real. I told him that Santa isn’t a real person but just like Superman or Spider-man, he uses his “super” (in this case “magical”) powers to make others feel safe and happy.

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