Lunch Money


Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle

One of my all time favorite movies is "A Christmas Story" which follows the plight Ralphie Parker (narrated by Jean Shepherd acted by Peter Billingsley) who is a nine year old boy from Indiana. The main point of this story centers around Raphie's desire for a `Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle' for Christmas. Throughout the movie, all the indicators are that it is just not going to happen. His mother is thoroughly against the idea and reinforces her argument with the chant "you’ll shoot your eye out". Dad seems ambivalent and just brushes him off. Even the Department Store Santa ignores his plea and instead follows the stores marketing line by directing Ralphie to tell his parents about the latest special toy the have on sale. Everything points to Ralphie not getting his hearts desire. But does that discourage Ole Ralphie ? No way ! He never misses the opportunity to put forward his case of why the BB gun is really the right present for him. He clings hard to the belief that if he just wishes hard enough , stays true to the dream, clings to the hope, he’ll get his `Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle' for Christmas. Of course, in the movie, Ralphie does get his `Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle.' But to me that is really irrelevant to the reality of the story. You see, I believe that even if he had not, Ralphie would not have given up the dream. No, after a short period of disappointment Ralphie would have rekindled the dream and started his campaign for his next birthday. After all, he would be a year older then and certainly old enough for a `Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle.'
Some years ago I unwittingly started a family tradition for our Christmases. It was based on the premise that all kids deserve a toy on Christmas and that everyone was a kid at heart. There were a number of people that I new through my new found recovery from Alcoholism that really had no family left and no place to go on Christmas Day. So, I made it a point to invite them to my house "if only for just a little while" and of course "they were welcome to stay for Christmas dinner." I never knew who would actually show up since commitments were not high on these folks agendas. Before Christmas I would by up a number of small inexpensive fun toys. You know, tops, yo-yo’s, gyroscopes, Tonka trucks etc. I would wrap them up untagged, and stick them under the tree. On Christmas day when a few of the many I had asked would show up, I would randomly pull out one of these special presents announcing "see Santa knew you were coming and left a gift here for you". I have many cherished memories off the looks on toughened faces as they opened the gift and were truly thrilled at the small toy inside. Watching a couple of guys with tattoos and prison records having a ball pushing around Tonka trucks on the kitchen floor is one of the fondest Christmas memories I have. One friend, Rob, was especially thrilled with his gyroscope. So much so that the following year he was one of the first to arrive anxiously eyeing under the tree as he walked in the living room. That year my wife had bought some of the gifts and unbeknownst to me she had picked out some gag underwear as one of the gifts. As luck would have it, the randomly selected gift for Rob turned out to be the underwear. I cannot describe the look of disappointment on his face as he opened the package. "I was hoping for a toy" he uttered. His disappointment was so obvious and we tried to offer up other presents to no avail. "No" he said, "this is fine. They really are cute".
Later that day I asked him about the underwear trying to assure him that it was OK to take another present to get a toy. What he shared with me is this. Seems that he grew up in a home that was oppressively strict and his parents did not believe in "toys for Christmas". So every year he would get practical and needed things. Things like sweaters, pants, new shoes and of course new comfortable underwear. In fact Rob said, last year was one of the first just for fun gifts he had ever really received for Christmas. And, though the underwear was cute, it reminded him when he was taught to not get his hope "too high" for Christmas. The lapse to childhood memories was short lived and he was OK, but it was intense and something that he thought he had ridded himself of.
It seems that much I have done in my life has been a lot like the Ralphie form of logic. There seems to have always been a sense that if I just do the necessary footwork, and wish it hard enough , stay true to the dream, cling to the hope that I’ll get the `Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle' I’m wanting. This theory has matured over the ages to include a little more rational thinking, but in actuality, in many ways, it is still at the root of how I view things like new jobs, moves, golf shots, work projects, new cars, a change in hair style, new clothes and any number of wants and desires that come up in my life. Most recently the theory has shown it’s face as I start trying new relationships. It seems that in spite of what the evidence may indicate, no matter how much I’m counseled "you shoot your eye out", no matter what else is on sale, I want the `Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle' and I know one when I see one. And although one can always use some new comfortable underwear, that practicality just won’t cut it in my relationship wants.
So no matter what the cost, I’d rather be Ralphie that Rob. After all, one will have lots of comfortable underwear over a lifetime but we often only get one chance at a real `Genuine Red Ryder 200 Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle'