Its kind of sad, as Downtown Dad and I clear the living room of the after-Christmas wreckage, saving the bows, tossing the paper, making sure everything is out of the boxes before breaking them down to better fit into the recycle bin; but A Christmas Story is on TV and it lifts our spirits. I know, A Christmas Story is ALWAYS on TV... but before long, we've stopped our labors to laugh, yet again with Ralphie and Randy, their Mother and The Old Man, in the days leading up to their 1940s Christmas. I love it because it makes me laugh every damn time I watch it! I have to admit though, I didn't start out liking it. Then, once "you'll shoot your eye out" became almost as common a phrase at Christmas as Happy Holidays, and leg lamps became a regular part of the Hallmark Christmas Ornament line-up, I thought maybe I should pay attention, and see what the REAL message was within this cute, but quirky story. Sure, on the surface, it's about getting the perfect present for Christmas. And, whether that is a Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun, or a Teach Yourself Gaelic DVD, if that's what you really really want, you have to make sure that the people who will be giving you gifts, know you want it.
For me, especially the day after the present-opening flurry of the day before, I feel a kind of let down, not that I'm disappointed, but its something I can't quite put my finger on. Winnie the Pooh says... "what I like best..." and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you begin to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called." Maybe that something is the message in A Christmas Story, that the anticipation you feel leading up to something might be just as good, if not better than actually having gotten that something. Think of the fabulous possibilities Darrin McGavin as The Old Man hints at, as the huge crate is delivered to his door, "Why, it could be anything!" he sputters, and might arguably be more excited before he opens the box, than after he finds out what is in there. Maybe the "Fra-geee-lay" stamped on the lid is a prophetic warning: that feeling of anticipation... that feeling just before IS Fragile.
The notion that the anticipation of something is somehow better than the realization, may be more common than we realize... Internet marketing guru, Seth Godin, says in a recent blog post "A wrapped present is transformed when it is opened. Anticipation turns into information, and frequently, one is worth far more than the other." Which one is worth more, he cleverly leaves up to the reader.
Our family had probably the best Christmas this year than we've had as a family for a very long time. Not because Downtown Dad and I finally both have full time salaried jobs, therefore more discretionary funds with which to buy presents, although that was part of it. Not because we were at home together as a family, although that was a big part of it too. The fact is, I think, not only that each of us we were able to put some magically mysterious wrapped boxes under the tree, but that we were able to give each other that fragile just before feeling, and each one of us, not just the person who's name was on the tag, was able to imagine the possibilities, and think to themselves... Why, it could be anything!