Christmas fuels nostalgia more than any other holiday, which helps explain why TBS can get away with running 24 hours of “A Christmas Story” starting at 8 p.m. tomorrow.
My memory can’t assemble a narrative quite as coherent as that of the late Jean Shepherd, the raconteur brains behind Bob Clark’s beloved film. But as Dec. 25 approaches, I’m summoning bits and pieces of Christmases past, with the occasional grimace as I realize that much of what’s popping into my head is gone for good.
For example, this is the first year that all three of our sons are adults. That won’t stop Mrs. Funk from stuffing some stockings for them, but there’s a huge difference between small children unwrapping gifts with delight, and 6-foot men issuing perfunctory thanks for new jeans and hoodies.
I’m at the “if I need it, I’ll buy it myself” stage of life, so my Christmas wish list is best summed up like this: “Everyone stay healthy!”
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I believed in Santa Claus and couldn’t wait to see what he deposited under our family’s tree, or the one at Grammy and Granddaddy’s house. That would have been my mother’s parents, who hosted the earliest Christmas celebrations I can remember.
They lived in a place called North Coventry Township in Chester County, and their television – probably the first one they bought, back in the ’50s – was black-and-white, of course, with no UHF. So we couldn’t watch our favorite cartoons when we visited.
But none of that mattered on Christmas morning, when my brother and I would unwrap our favorite gifts: Matchbox cars. Those weren’t just any Matchboxes. They were the Models of Yesteryear, finely detailed replicas of everything from a 1911 Ford Model T to something called a 1905 Shand Mason horse-drawn fire engine.
The Models of Yesteryear stayed at our grandparents’ house so that we wouldn’t beat the heck out of them, although I recall the Shand Mason horse being kind of worse for the wear. And somewhere in my parents’ attic, nearly half a century later, are a bunch of those vintage vehicles, not quite in pristine condition but probably worth a buck or two.
Not that we’d sell ’em.
My grandfather died when I was 5, and my grandmother when I was 13. I stopped by the North Coventry homestead to take some photos when I was in that area about 10 years ago, and I ended up talking with the current owner, who invited me inside.
He’d renovated the place considerably, but I still could envision where the Christmas tree used to stand.
So, there you have it. I can’t quite build a 90-minute movie around those memories, but I can smile.
And that’s a great thing to be able to do this time of year.
Harry Funk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.