Listen, there was a time in my life when I was a “Ralphie.” When I watched A Christmas Story and got so frustrated with the unfairness of it all. How Ralphie never gets a second of privacy and has to hide out in the bathroom just to use his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder. Running, always running, from Scut Farkus, he of the yellow eyes and unfortunate coonskin hat. The terror of not getting what you want from Christmas. The revenge dream against your parents who just don’t get you. Then I became a mom and rewatched A Christmas Story.
And no, okay? Ralphie and Randy, just no.
I Guess Moms Don’t Need Names?
A Christmas Story was based on a short story written by narrator Jean Shephard hilariously titled In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. Sheppard’s short story was modeled after his own childhood growing up in Hammond, Indiana in the ‘40s, so yes, I understand it was a different time. But Ralphie’s mom, who is played by the brilliant Melinda Dillon in Bob Clark’s 1983 adaptation of A Christmas Story, doesn’t even get a name? For real? The only woman in the family, presumably forced to wear ill-fitting polyester skirts and nylons (nylons!) while trapped inside her home, spending her days cooking and cleaning, and they don’t even give her a name? Or pants? But mostly a name?
From now on, I would like to call her Victoria.
Randy Is A Handful
Randy is. A lot.
Ralphie is a pretty easy kid to get along with for the most part, but Randy? Who is this kid? He is so so much work for his mom, AKA Victoria. First of all, he is old enough to go to school but not old enough to figure out how snowsuits work. Which feels sort of fair, but he hassles his mom so much about it... I can almost feel her sigh of relief when she gets them out the door to school.
Sadly, I also think Randy might be her best friend. Ralphie is laser-focused on getting that BB gun and his friends. Her husband, AKA “The Old Man,” only looks up from his puzzles to complain about the furnace or yell at his kids or fight with the Bumpus’s dogs. May I remind you she is dressed in business casual skirts and blouses and no one looks at her? Except Randy. The little boy of indeterminate age who hides in cupboards and only eats his dinner by pretending to be a pig at a trough.
This is Victoria’s life now.
The Separate Beds Were Kind Of Great
There is one brief scene where Ralphie sneaks into his parents’ room to share an ad for his Red Ryder BB gun in one of his mom’s magazines, and I noticed two things. One, when does this woman ever have time to read a magazine? And two, she and her husband sleep in separate twin beds.
I support this. I bet she gets a great sleep in her own bed. I bet she keeps those sheets crisp and clean and feels like herself when she lies down at the end of a long day spent in service to her family.
I just wish the bed was bigger for her. And in a magnificent hotel room in Tahiti.
Lukewarm Food & Zero Gratitude
Ralphie notes at one point in the narration that his mother “hadn’t eaten a hot meal in 15 years.” It’s said with affection as the movie shows her trying to take a bite of the mashed potatoes and meatloaf she has lovingly crafted and her husband, a grown man, says “can I have more red cabbage?” I would like to point out that her children have not been alive for 15 years, which means her husband is the one keeping her from eating.
Also no one shows her any kind of gratitude.
The Turning Point That Gets You
Mom rescues Ralphie and leaves Scut Farkus to rot in the snow.
When Ralphie beats up Scut Farkus after being bullied and Randy runs to get his mom, there are a lot of problematic scenes. First of all, she doesn’t even pretend to check on the child her son has just left bloodied in the snow. Second of all, the overriding fear in the house, as voiced by Randy, is that “Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie” for getting into a fight. She protects him, and it’s sort of beautiful in the way they share a moment. Ralphie looks at his mom with new eyes, almost like she’s a human being.
But seriously, was her husband going to come home and beat their child? Did Scut survive? Victoria, I know it was exciting to leave the house unattended for once, but still.
That Leg Lamp Was The Last Straw
I’ll say it; when Ralphie’s mom “accidentally” breaks the leg lamp her husband won as his “major award,” I got it. Her husband has lost his temper and sworn in front of their kids so often Ralphie’s out there dropping F-bombs whenever. He goes out to work and comes home and she finally, finally has another adult to speak to but he hides behind the paper all night. She wears nylons for him even in winter and he never says a word about her efforts. All he does is fawn over his lamp which, beautiful though it may be, embarrasses her and she can’t say a word about it.
She Was Right About Shooting Your Eye Out
The mom was right. Ralphie did nearly shoot his eye out.
By the time Christmas arrives, mom AKA Victoria has run herself ragged but you can kind of tell that’s just her life now. Did she have dreams, you ask? Did she ever get to have a personality that was not tied to her family? Did she hope for a marriage where she was respected? Too bad for her, I guess. Because even when she wants to put her foot down about something, it makes no difference. First off, The Old Man, who actually engages with the family on Christmas Day, overrides her when she asks Ralphie to wear his pink bunny pajamas sent by his aunt. Yes, they were tragic, but can we just let mom have this one thing?
Then her husband goes behind her back and buys their son a BB gun despite the fact that she’s made it clear she doesn’t want him to have it. Worried he’ll shoot his eye out, and for good reason because he nearly does. All she can do is mutter dejectedly “I still think those things are dangerous,” while her husband gets to win the prize of most fun parent for the day.
She Finds Happiness In The Small Things
No one is more excited about Christmas morning in that house but the mom. You know they stayed up late getting everything ready, but that woman came down the stairs in her pink robe glowing with happiness. Even when the Bumpus’s dogs break in to eat her turkey while she’s helping Ralphie with his eye (again I say, she was right). She cries at first. But then her husband takes the family out for dinner. She gets served for once in a nice dress. They go home, the kids go to bed, it snows outside and looks gorgeous. Mom and The Old Man listen to Christmas music by the light of the Christmas tree, drinking wine and cuddling together.
I used to think this was so romantic. But now all I can think is, Run, Victoria. Just for the night. Be free this Christmas.