Have you ever asked a grade school kid about his or her favorite part of the school day? Nine will get you 10 that the answer was "recess." That would have been back when we had recess, of course. Now it has been replaced at most schools by standardized test preparation, but that's another story for another day.
I am a teacher and although I enjoy teaching, my favorite part of the day is lunch. Lunch is that 20-minute period each day that I get to sit down with other adults and enjoy a few minutes of conversation -- and in our lunch group we are forbidden to say anything negative and we don't discuss school. Cross the line and you are banned for life -- or at least until the next day.
We have a rather eclectic group, too, with a wide variety of interests. We have a lady who runs marathons and another who is a ballroom dancer. We have people from Alabama and Mississippi and even a Yankee or two. With all of the various interests represented, we talk about ... well, mostly we talk about college football, at least between August and February. In March and April we talk about spring football, and in May we mostly stare straight ahead with glazed looks on our collective shell-shocked faces. Then when we return in July we are ready to talk about football some more.
But once in a great while Julie, (the marathoner) is able to steer the conversation away from our favorite topic. (Julie is from New Mexico and after 27 years in the South still doesn't quite get college football.)
Now I told you all of that to tell you this. The other day our conversation turned to Christmas movies, because you know that from now until the end of December we are going to be inundated with sweet and sappy stories about Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge and the hard-hearted penny-pinching boss whose heart melts just in time to dispense a Christmas bonus to enable the poor single parent to buy a pony for her long-suffering children. Or something like that.
Naturally we all had to weigh in on our favorites. One person had just seen "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye for the first time. "White Christmas" happens to be one of my favorites. I watch it every year and still get teary-eyed at the end when the general walks into the big show room and all the soldiers start singing "We'll follow the old man ... " Of course hearing der Bingle croon the title song ain't bad either.
"It's a Wonderful Life" was high on the can't-miss list. Honesty compels me to admit that it isn't Christmas until I have the tree trimmed and sit down in front of a roaring fire with a cup of cider or hot chocolate -- always late at night -- and watch Jimmy Stewart interact with Clarence the angel for a couple of hours. And I am always amazed at how good-looking Donna Reed was. No wonder she wound up marrying a doctor.
There were mentions of other shows, of course. "A Christmas Carol," got a shoutout -- not sure which version -- and "Home Alone" and even "Ernest Saves Christmas," which is actually one of my favorites. But when all was said and done, we realized that our lunch group was basically divided into two camps -- those who liked "A Christmas Story" best and those who preferred "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." I am sure a psychologist could have a field day explaining what our preferences say about our personalities -- sort of like throwing icicles versus placing them.
Color me Griswold.
I have never cared for "A Christmas Story." Maybe I just can't identify with the middle class environment portrayed in the movie. Nobody I knew growing up would have been caught dead in a bunny outfit. None of us were impractical enough to dream of something as expensive as a BB gun for Christmas. Our folks didn't have extra cash to spend on lamps that looked like a woman's leg, and it never got cold enough to worry about sticking our tongue against a lamp post. I am like Julie and Southern college football. I just can't relate.
But Clark "Sparky" Griswold? That is a horse of a different color. My family would tell you that I am Clark Griswold. I want to make a giant adventure out of everything to do with Christmas -- or vacations. I am sentimental and a traditionalist and I want my life to look like it belongs on a Christmas card. And like Clark Griswold, I usually try so hard to make everything perfect that I foul everything up instead.
But like Clark, my family might complain about my antics and roll their eyes at the drama I create, but in the end -- they always have my back.
At any rate, inspired by our lunch time conversation I am prepared to hole up in my living room this week and watch as many holiday movies as I can, and if you run into me on the street and I seem a little loopy -- blame Julie. I wanted to talk about the Tech-Georgia game.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.