How I imagined the backstory of the dad from “A Christmas Story”:
I’ve seen things. Lots of us have: it was a long war. Terrible things, like Anzio ’44. Wonderful things, like summer in liberated Paris. I’ve seen these, and I’ve remembered them.
I wasn’t supposed to be home very long, just a while to relax a bit and then join my buddies on our way to Asia, maybe Africa. I’ve heard Brazil is lovely. Smitty changed his mind after Kimbal got lost to a land mine, though, and anyway I’d met her by then. She’d never been outside her Midwest town along the rail line to San Francisco, but I guess after a couple of beers we both found something to like. I needed her all-Americanness. She enjoyed my stories — at least, the ones I dared tell her. I never planned to stay. No matter. The days faded into months, and her idea for me to use my G.I. Bill to get a degree in accounting was solid. The boys wouldn’t have believed it. Me, in an office! But why not. We all settle down eventually, right?
My wife will never go with me. I’ve accepted that. We have a good life, even if this town gets a little small. We won’t dance the night away in Milan but there’s a warm bed and dinner on the table every night. That counts for a lot. I just wish… they understood. That I need a little escape sometimes. That I need to be outside this town every now and then, running with the bulls or racing to victory. I can read and I can imagine and that works for me. I’ve earned that, haven’t I? I know I can’t be a bush pilot now, so don’t remind me that it’s only my silly fantasy. I know this. I need a few minutes to pretend, that’s all.
One boy takes after my wife. He’s a good kid. He’ll be a solid office man too one day. Perhaps a tradesman. Yeah, I could see that. I know he won’t leave the state — God willing, he won’t have to like I did. He’s home and that’s big enough for him. I’m not sure about the other son. I think I see a spark in him. I think he might take after me, for better or for worse. He wonders about things. He dreams. I can see it. This isn’t a great place for wonderers and dreamers, don’t I know, but maybe I can fan that spark into something wonderful. Something to get him out of here. Something to help him see things, terrible and wonderful things that he can remember. He can have his own silly fantasies, and if my Ralphie wants to be Red Ryder and have his own BB gun with a compass in the stock, then that’s what Santa is going to bring him.