Have you ever wished that life had a rewind button, one that you could press to run back the tape and edit out something you had done: a thoughtless comment or impetuous act that, whether deliberate or not, was hurtful to someone?

I have, for more reasons than I care to admit. But there is one thing that, after decades, haunts me to this day, every time I watch A Christmas Story.”

A modern classic

It is little wonder that “A Christmas Story” fast became a modern seasonal classic. While lacking the supernatural or fantastical elements essential to the plots of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and other holiday favorites, “A Christmas Story” captures the essence of childhood in a way that others do not.

Narrated by the lead character, Ralphie, as an adult, the story is his recollection of a boyhood Christmas with all the fantasies, frustrations, fears, and disappointments that go along with “kid-dom.” For grownups of his generation—early baby-boomers, especially men—his recollections are so familiar that Ralphie might have been one of our neighbors, friends, or even one of us.

What BB gun-lusting boy hadn’t been rebuffed with, “You’ll shoot your eye out”? What finicky child hadn’t been guilt-tripped with, “There are starving people in China”? Who among us hadn’t issued, or been threatened with, “double-dog” and “triple-dog” dares? And who, in a day when kids still walked to school, didn’t deal with the prospect of losing their lunch money to “Scut Farkus”?

Clever lines

Added to the near-autobiographical familiarity of the story, is narration strung together with clever lines like this: "In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan."

And this:“With as much dignity as he could muster, the Old Man gathered up the sad remains of his shattered Major Award. Later that night, alone in the backyard, he buried it next to the garage. Now I could never be sure, but I thought that I heard the sound of ‘Taps’ being played. Gently.”

And who could forget the unguarded moment when, right in front of his dad, Ralphie let “FUDGE” —well, not “fudge,” but the “queen-mother of dirty words” —slip from his lips:

“I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.”

That scene especially reminds me why the real Christmas story is so important. It goes back to that “thing” I did decades ago. Continue reading here.