73: A Christmas Story Revisited

73: A Christmas Story Revisited

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

A Christmas Story Revisited

Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal until they get together.

~Sam Levenson

“So, Mom, I’ve got this great idea,” my son Jon announced on the telephone. I heard the deep giggle that usually punctuates one of his “great ideas.”

“Amy and I found a website that sells adult-sized one-piece pajamas. For Christmas we’re going to buy four of them in pink — for Andy, Dana, Kate and Mike.” I held my breath. When he mentioned his siblings, I sensed a practical joke coming on.

“And — we found hoods that tie under the chin. We’re going to get four of them and sew long pink ears on them.” Now he was chortling. “We’ll sew bunny faces on the foot coverings. We’ll wrap them up and those will be their gifts on Christmas Eve. And they’re going to have to put them on! It’ll be like...” An explosion of laughter interrupted him.

I finished his statement, “Ralphie in A Christmas Story.” Shaking my head, I smirked at the vision of my son and daughter and their poor spouses dressed in these ridiculous costumes, not to mention Jon’s hysteria and his forethought. I mean, it was September — way too early to think about Christmas.

While I raised my family to honor traditions of our faith and ancestors at Christmas, we also adopted a tradition of pop culture: watching the now-classic movie, A Christmas Story, about a family preparing to celebrate the holidays in 1940s Indiana. The older son, Ralphie, wanted nothing more than a Red Ryder BB Gun, but his mother disapproved, uttering, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Every year we watched the movie at least once during the month of December, memorizing the dialogue. Certain scenes have become favorites: when Dad wins a major award, famously known as the leg lamp; when Santa’s elves terrorize Ralphie and his kid brother at the department store; or when the neighbor’s dogs devour the Christmas turkey, forcing the family to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Jon, of course, loved it when an embarrassed Ralphie modeled the handmade pink bunny outfit sent by a doddering aunt.

“It’s going to be great!” Jon assured me about his prank. “Remember, you’re sworn to secrecy.”

“Absolutely.” Still shaking my head, I sealed my lips.

In November my daughter Kate phoned. “Mom, I was shopping on the Internet, and you won’t believe this. I found a pair of pink pajamas for adults. They’re one piece, and they have feet and a hood attached, like a baby’s onesie. I am going to get that for Jon for Christmas. I’m going to fix it up with bunny ears and a bunny tail.”

“You mean like in A Christmas Story? Where did you get that idea?”

“I was online, trying to find a gift for Jon, when I saw it. I think it’ll be hilarious.” She giggled. I imagined the way she crinkled her nose on such occasions. “I told Andy about it, and he thinks it’s good. What do you think, Mom? Should I do it?”

“Oh, sure. He’ll get a big kick out of it.”

“You won’t tell Jon, will you?”

“What, me? Spoil a surprise? Never.”

This was going to be great.

I revealed the madcap Christmas plots to my husband Joe because the secret was too good to hoard. I relished the thought of watching this zany fun. For years as parents, Joe and I put forth the effort and made the fun and the magic for the kids. Now they were giving back.

On Christmas Eve, the house smelled of sauerbraten and spiced red cabbage and twinkled with tree lights when the young folk arrived. Around the table, we said grace and made a toast for a merry Christmas, then chatted and joked through dinner. Jon and Kate played it cool. Near the meal’s end, Kate left the dining room, only to make a hurried return and whisper into Andy’s ear. His head recoiled slightly, his brow furrowing. I shot a quick glance at my husband, who raised an eyebrow back at me. Good, we’re gathering steam now, I thought. Andy and Kate hovered over the gifts placed under the Christmas tree, directing their attention to four identically sized boxes, wrapped in candy-cane-striped paper.

The party moved to the family room to exchange our gifts. Kate rose from her seat, grabbed a box, and handed it to Jon. He tore the wrappings and lifted the top of the box, the crisp tissue crinkling. Shock registered on his face with the first peek inside.

“Wait!” said Amy. Seated next to Jon, she folded the corner of the tissue paper back, ran to the tree to pick up four boxes from under the tree, and presented one each to Andy, Dana, Kate, and Mike. “Okay, now open them!”

The recipients, looking as bug-eyed as Jon, tore the gift wrap. Their mouths gaping, they lifted pink fleece pajamas by the shoulders for all to see. My husband and I clapped furiously, howling, enjoying the release of three months of built-up anticipation.

Andy stood up. “All right, let’s go. Let’s put them on.” They excused themselves to work their legs and arms into the pink fleece in private. One by one, five adult-sized pink bunnies emerged from bathrooms and bedrooms. They looked like confused Easter bunnies at the wrong holiday.

Appraising each other’s ears and cottontails, they exploded laughing, including Jon, who laughed loudest at his own reflection.

The five pink bunnies lined up and posed in front of the Christmas tree, while we snapped several pictures. Whether they are the craziest Christmas photos ever taken is debatable, but for me, they are a precious reminder of a Christmas when my children strengthened our family bond with the sweet gift of shared laughter.

~Dorothy K. LaMantia

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