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Why We Love A Christmas Story

For a long time I thought my love of A Christmas Story (1983), could be explained by the fact that it recreates the historical period of my childhood.

Like Ralphie, I sent away for secret decoders advertised on the radio. The decoded messages told me to drink my Ovaltine.

I sat in a classroom with nailed down desks with hinged tops and inkwells. I know what Lifebuoy soap tasted like, not because my mother made me put it in my mouth for swearing, but because that's the soap we bathed with. What child doesn't get a taste of soap at one time or another?

Those are memories that people born more recently can't share, but evidently there are plenty more that they can identify with:

Wearing glasses and being afraid of breaking them

Being tormented by a bully.

Keeping silent to save yourself.

Wanting a particular gift more than anything.

Having aunts who send dippy presents.

Havng parents who play good cop, bad cop.

Being freaked out by unfamiliar food.

Daydreaming about how you'll make everyone sorry some day.

Being stuffed into a snowsuit.

Having a tag-along brother or sister

Daring or being dared with unfortunate consequences.

Being told you'll shoot your eye out or cut your finger off, or kill yourself when you desire to do something grownups perceive as being outside your capability.

Maybe another thing that makes this a movie loved by modern viewers is that it shows a time when the roles of children and adults were clearly defined and separate.

The lives of many children these days are as stressed and scheduled as those of their parents. Soccer practice, karate, dancing lessons, the list goes on. The wonderful open spaces of childhood continue to shrink. Even those children not booked for "enrichment" activities are circumscribed compared to Ralphie and Randy. Walk to school? Too dangerous. Play outside? Too dangerous.

Recesses grow shorter. Summer vacation grows shorter. Bad people, some of them children themselves, prowl the streets and playgrounds with drugs and evil intentions.

A Christmas Story is a refuge, a safe place where we can enjoy the childhood we had or wish we'd had.

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