I was Ralphie before anyone had ever heard of him.
I didn’t want a BB gun for Christmas. Heck, no. BB guns only shot one tiny pellet at a time. Pssh. Baby stuff.
I wanted a shotgun. It shot lots of BBs all at once, and it made a much louder bang.
I didn’t have a good reason. I was a kid, and I didn’t need a reason. If Santa didn’t really want to know what I wanted for Christmas, he shouldn’t have asked.
Apparently, Santa and my dad were pretty tight. Somehow, Dad found out about my heart’s desire, and his response pretty much preceded the comments Ralphie’s parents offered in 1983’s “The Christmas Story”:
“You can’t have a shotgun. You’ll shoot your sister’s head off.”
Of course, the screenwriters changed the wording for the movie, and to my knowledge, Dad never once received a royalty check.
With the holiday season upon us, we’re about to get inundated with all the movies from throughout the years. I’m so old I’ve seen most of them dozens of times, but they’re just like Christmas carols to me. I never get tired of ’em.
Heck, my family and I have been starring in those movies since forever ago.
I was Ralphie fighting the bully Farkus when I was in sixth grade. Got pushed around by a bigger kid for weeks before Dad gave me an ultimatum: Fight him back, or quit football.
I fought, I won, and it changed my life. Never again would I let someone push me around that way. My battle happened before the movie came out.
I haven’t gotten any royalty checks either, Dad.
Who among us hasn’t felt like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Sure, the movie came out in 1964, but plenty of us have felt like outcasts, especially when we were kids. My family moved a lot when I was in elementary school, so I was constantly the new guy who didn’t fit in. I didn’t have a red nose, but I had thick glasses. For those mean kids looking for a target, I was perfect.
If only Santa had called on us to guide his sleigh one night, our school days could have been much easier on us.
I’ll bet a lot of us have felt like the poor tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” A little unwanted, maybe, or feeling so ragged we didn’t think anybody could love us. All it took was a little tinsel and a shiny ball to make us feel special.
I remember being “The Little Drummer Boy” more than once. I was a poor boy, too, pa-rup-a-pum-pum. Didn’t have the money to buy loved ones what I thought they deserved, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to give them something. I gave my brothers some of my favorite belongings, wrapped up like they were brand-new gifts. My baby brother Jack once gave me his favorite football card. My brother Randy wanted to give me his fishing rod. My sisters made me cookies. They had no gift to bring either, but they found a way.
I’ll wager many of us have been the kids from 1969’s “Frosty the Snowman.” Ever had to say goodbye to friends? They may not have been wearing an old silk hat they found, but we sure didn’t want to see them go away, nevertheless. That wasn’t melted snow people puddled at our feet when we finished bidding them farewell. Those were real tears.
I’ve continued playing roles in my own Christmas movies throughout my life. I went through the stage when the holidays just made me mad. I turned into “Scrooge” more than once. I preferred Albert Finney’s Scrooge from 1970. My favorite song from that movie — one I still sing out loud when I’m in Houston traffic — is “I Hate People.”
Then I had kids, and my roles changed. I was Tim Allen way before he got to be Santa in “The Santa Clause” in 1994. Trying to impress your own children ain’t easy, especially when some fat guy at the North Pole gets all the credit on Christmas morning. We parents save up all year, stay up all night and go through all sorts of stuff just to hear our kids open their gifts and scream, “Santa is so awesome!”
Bite me, fat boy. Get a real job.
Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1996’s “Jingle All the Way”? His character, Howard Langston, went to war to get his kid the last Turbo Man toy.
Big, fat, hairy deal. Way back in 1980-something, Cabbage Patch Kids were the rage. I was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe, Hawaii, at the time, and I was going to get to fly home to Tennessee for the holidays. I wanted to get my baby sister one of those dolls. I stood in line for freaking hours, and when I finally got to the front, I decided to buy — excuse me, adopt — two in case someone else back home wanted one.
A large, angry Samoan woman thought I was being greedy and actually tried to wrestle one away from me. She was gonna pound me into poi before I could even offer her a deal.
Yeah, Mele Kalikimaka to you too, lady.
Is there one among us who hasn’t related to Jim Carrey’s version of the Grinch? All it takes is a few bad months leading up to December, and whatever version of the Christmas spirit we may have had withers like Charlie Brown’s tree. If we’re lucky, we’ll encounter a Cindy Lou Who to get us back on track. Usually, for me, it was one of my daughters.
Sadly, we can also relate to poor Clark Griswold in “Christmas Vacation,” right? Trouble getting all the lights to work? Check. Bat-poop crazy kinfolk? Check. Squirrels in the tree and electrocuted cats? Che—
Well, maybe not those parts. I hope.
I’ve even gone so far as to suggest to my trophy wife that we skip the holidays one year and go on our own vacation somewhere cool, a la Luther Krank in “Christmas with the Kranks.” All our kids are grown, it’s just the two of us, and I thought we’d have a blast (and save money) if we bailed and boogied somewhere exotic.
But nooooo, we didn’t have just one kid deciding to come stay with us. We had all of ’em. We packed inside our home for days, listening to music, decorating and just being together.
And that’s where I am now, all these years later. Starring in my own Christmas movie.
I’m George Bailey, and man, it’s a wonderful life. Living this long means I’ve accumulated enough family and friends to keep me from ever donning my Scrooge or Grinch makeup again. I’m thankful I didn’t need Clarence Odbody trying to earn his wings by showing me how the world would have been without me. I’ve got plenty of angels in my life to show me every day that I’m important to someone. Like Clarence said, “Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends.”
So here’s to all you movie stars: A toast to all of us.
We’re the richest people in town.
Don’t blow all those royalty checks in one place.