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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Parable of A Christmas Story

Just picked up Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust, All Others Must Pay Cash or A Christmas Story. Figured it was time to find the novel that started the movie and has moved into the classic category as a staple of Christmas nirvana. And of course the novel is different but the guts of the story are the same. It is a really just a look back of course to growing up in a mill town of Indiana and the pursuit of a Red Rider BB gun. But this is just the envelope to a much longer letter.

The reason the movie has become part of our culture is it is a vision of America we want to endure. Say about forty six or forty eight judging from the cars. The war had been won and America fell back into itself and all over the country boys dreamed about getting BB guns while fathers tried to win prizes for selling the most whatevers and moms dressed their kids like astronauts against the cold. Cussing, eating soap, sticking your tongue against a frozen metal pole, confronting the neighborhood bully...this all belongs to precyber America.

Maybe this is what Americans subconciously  long for. This small town that had a mom in the kitchen and dad reading the paper and Santa was a maniac at the department store and Ovaltine was on a decoder rings. American lore or the American century take your pick. The point is that Shepherd unwittingly caught a passing moment that might or might not have existed for very long but did pass through our collective conscious as something very much the way we see ourselves.

Maybe we are a people of the small tows after all and will never be comfortable in our global cyber world. In the end of Rocket Man the protagonist looks back and references the final scene where the father and mother sit down by the Christmas tree and watch the snow . "The camera pulls back even further, back outside onto the street, and now we see the house with a Hudson parked outside...that is what I always imagined my childhood should have been: a Hudson parked outside a modest home with everyone safe and warm, asleep in middle-class slumber."

Yeah, middle class slumber. What we wouldn't give for a little of that now.
Rocket Man...the American Dream in reverse

Books by William Hazelgrove