Visiting the House From ‘A Christmas Story’: Nostalgia, Ad Nauseam
First, we jogged across the street to the gift shop and museum to purchase tickets ($11 a pop). While the museum felt sparse, the gift shop certainly didn’t.Any and everything that had to do with the house (and ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’) was available, including a collectible Christmas village, Lifebuoy soap to suck on, a box of FFffudge, replica FRAGILE leg lamps and the official Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.I didn’t buy any of it. I bought a soda.
My friends bought trinkets and ornaments.In fact, almost everyone did. While I stood in line to buy my ticket and a Coke, the person ahead of me dropped several hundred dollars on the homes and figures in the Christmas village. I loved the movie but not enough to drop an iPad’s worth of cash on memorabilia.
The museum contained items used in the filming, most of which I didn’t recognize, but was graciously reminded of by framed movie stills. I strolled through the museum in about twenty minutes, but most took much longer, pouring over every item like accountants over Capone’s books.
I spent the rest of the time people-watching. They bounced from item to item and I witnessed the pattern of the nostalgically obsessed: ogle the item, patiently read the informative display, ogle the item again with new appreciation, make approving comment, move to next item.The house was small, but all houses of that era seem small inside. Everything, from the wallpaper to the wood trim, gleamed immaculate. After two dozen people collected in the living room, the tour guide started the spiel, talking for at least twenty minutes before we moved to another room. I remember some of it, but mostly I remember being hot and uncomfortable in a room of sweaty strangers packed together like…well, like a family Christmas party.
The house tour consisted of many “Did you know…” moments and the guide dramatically gesturing at a window or a door to show where parts of the film were made.The backyard was there, and visitors could stand where Ralphie stood as he daydreamed fending off robbers with chewing tobacco, spurs and his trusty BB gun.
I found the willingness of visitors to stand in line for the honor of looking out of the window the most interesting part of the visit.That and finding a massive wasp’s nest in the ‘Story’ house’s shed. If you love the film, it’s worth seeing if you’re in Cleveland, but not worth a special trip. Of course, if you LOVE the film, and my somewhat standoffish article irritated you, then the house is worth plane fare and car rental. I mean no offense; my nostalgia for the film has abated with life’s mileage, but I still appreciate it for its characters, atmosphere and, most of all, the narrative skill of author Jean Shepard. The man wielded descriptive nostalgia with a swordsman’s skill.
But if Jean Shepard were still around and went to visit Ralphie’s house from ‘A Christmas Story’ I think he’d find himself doing more people-watching than anything else as well.