I don’t have lots of funny Christmas memories but I have one favorite Christmas memory that had me laughing myself silly.
It was back in 1983. I was driving back home for Christmas from Boston and New York. By driving way too fast and timing my trips during low traffic I could make the trip in a little over 3 hours but it was deadly boring.
That night I was driving way too fast in near blizzard conditions. I was looking for any radio station – no satellite radios back then. Suddenly I heard a voice that brought back sweet memories from my childhood.
The voice was unmistakable, but it made no sense. This fellow was being interviewed about a movie he had made and I didn’t know he made any movies.
I was transfixed. No question. He told a story of sitting in a small, hometown theater, watching his movie. There he was, a member of an audience that did not know he was there, who he was, or that it was his movie. He talked about the anxiety he felt as he waited to see how the audience reacted and the joy he felt when the audience started their gales of laughter.
The storytelling style was unique. Though I hadn’t heard his voice on the radio in decades, I knew who he was. I slowed down and savored every word, lest I drive out of range of the radio station. He probably saved my life, yet again, that night.
The movie was A Christmas Story. The voice was Jean Shepherd.
In my early years, I was often glued to an old analogue radio set, listening to the scratchy sound of one of “Shep’s” broadcasts, when I was supposed to be sleeping.
Shep’s stories about growing up, the angst of being a little kid in an adult world, tales about neighbors, parents, siblings, friends and his biting commentary on the human condition were critical in making me who I am today.
Shep instilled a keen sense of humor, too infrequently tickled by modern comedians. Long before Garrison Keillor there was Jean Shepherd.
It took too long to see his movie, but A Christmas Story is right up there with A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life for Christmas treats.
That night, listening to Jean on the radio, one last time, is one of my sweetest Christmas memories.