Over the weekend we traveled to Cleveland to celebrate the wedding of one of my best friends. The weekend was a blast and the wedding was beautiful, but before we began the celebration, we finally crossed something off both our bucket lists... an experience that changed both our lives.
We made the pilgrimage to what is truly Eric's personal Mecca. His Shangri-La. His most holy land in all the world.... The "A Christmas Story House."
Now, if you're not familiar with "A Christmas Story" I think we need to sit down and reevaluate our relationship.... because clearly this isn't going to work out. "A Christmas Story" is the greatest Christmas film ever made. Full of nostalgia, charm, wit and, of course, screaming and cursing children, the movie is close to perfection. In Eric's book, it is the Greatest Movie of All Time. Sure, you may think you know all there is to know about the film, but I'm certain there are only a small handful of people on Earth who know the movie as well as Eric. All its intricacies, its flubs, its background.... Eric knows every little trivial piece about the movie you could imagine, aside from having the ability to quote it from start to finish. He's got a "Christmas Story" trivia game, and the one time I sat down to play with him (in our first year of dating... and I thought I knew a lot about the movie at the time...) he absolutely astounded me with how much he knew about the film. I refused to ever play the game against him again. He is, in the sincerest of ways, obsessed.
And, yes, he's worn a pink bunny suit ("The Pink Nightmare," as it's come to be known) every Christmas morning for the last seven years (but more on that later). He is, my friends, the definition of a superfan.
So anyway, back to the house...
We'd been wanting to go for years, but had the perfect opportunity while we were in town for the wedding. We drove from Milwaukee straight to 11th Street in Cleveland.... and it truly was a magical experience.
Now, any true Christmas Story fan knows Ralphie and the Parker family lived on "Good ol' Cleveland Street. How could I forget it..." Sure, the actual house may be located on 11th Street in Cleveland, but I was tickled to see the city had honorarily named it "Cleveland St," a nod to the film.
And there it is! The House itself! I won't go into detail about just how the Christmas Story House was turned into a museum in honor of the film (if you want the whole story, click here), but it all started with another superfan who saw the house was for sale... he bought it and spent over $200,000 to restore it and went frame by frame through the movie to model it exactly how it looked in the film. That's a dedicated fan!
After we parked, we bought two tickets for the tour. Our tour guide let us into the house, where we gathered in the living room as she told us the background behind the film, some fun trivia (did you know the profits from "Porky's" gave directer Bob Clark the funds to be able to make "A Christmas Story?") and also about how the house was purchased and restored (Eric had already known about 98 percent of what she told us.... he could guide that tour in his sleep.) Then, she let us loose in the house to take pictures in all the rooms. Like kids in a candy store, we gleefully bounded through the house, snapping dozens of photos and taking turns acting out our favorite scenes from the movie.
Here's Eric checking the mailbox to see if his Little Orphan Annie Secret Society Decoder Pin had arrived yet.... "Oh, skunked again!"
Next to the door were replicas of the long stocking caps Schwartz wore in the film... along with the mile-long scarf that bound Randy in his snow suit, looking "like a tick about to pop."
Of course, the leg lamp, outside the famous "FRA-GEE-LAY (must be Italian!)" crate sat right inside the foyer where it was opened in the film.
From the foyer, we went into the kitchen, where Randy was coaxed into eating his meal by pretending to act like "Mommy's little piggy."
We were even encouraged to hide under the sink where Randy famously exclaimed "Daddy's gonna kill Ralphie!"
We both did our best Randy impressions. Though no one offered us any milk.
And here is the radio where Ralphie so eagerly listened to his favorite program, "Little Orphan Annie." While we were there, it looked like he'd remembered not to leave his glasses on the radio again.
And here it is, arguably the most famous addition to the house. Sitting there, emitting the "soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window...." The Major Award.
Also known as "the leg lamp."
"Yeah.... a statue....."
Eric had a great time pretending like it was Christmas morning, finding the Old Man's bowling ball ("Ooh, it's hard!").
But obviously the most prized possession under the tree was that Red Ryder BB Gun (with "a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.")
Upstairs, we were tickled to see Randy and Ralphie's bedroom... complete with the same sailboat wallpaper!
Next to the boys' room was mother's sewing room, where she kept her Look magazines, where Ralphie would not-so-subtly place his hint for what he wanted for Christmas.
We also saw the bathroom where the dreaded Lifebuoy soap lay ("It.... It... It was..... SOAP. POISONING!"). We were sure to watch our language as we toured the house so as to avoid getting our mouths washed out.
While in the bathroom ("the only room in the house where a boy of nine could sit in privacy and decode."), Eric set out to decode his first Secret Society message....
"BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE." A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!
After leaving the bathroom, wiser, we were told we had five minutes left to spend in the house. Now, we hadn't driven nearly seven hours to make it to the Christmas Story house for Eric NOT to wear his Pink Nightmare suit (his mom made it for him years ago, and he, honest to god, wears it every Christmas morning while opening presents), so he rushed out to the car to put it on and pose for a picture, looking like "a deranged Easter Bunny."
I just hope this picture doesn't get out to Flick, who upon seeing it would make Eric's life at Warren G. Harding School a veritable hell.
The other tourists in our group absolutely LOVED Eric's pink bunny costume, exclaiming it's "Way better than the ones the have for sale in the gift shop." It looks just like the original, which came from Aunt Clara.... with those blue bunny eyes staring up at him.
Now, we could've spent at least another four hours playing in the house, but the next stop was across the street, in the official Christmas Story museum, filled with artifacts, props, costumes and behind-the-scenes photos from the film.
Inside the museum, we marveled at all the original costumes.
And Eric had a little someone marveling at his own costume! This little boy was enamored with Eric's bunny suit. He came up to hug him, and squealed with glee when Eric shook one of his bunny feet at him. It was adorable.
I loved getting a look at all the photos from the film's taping, like this one of the whole crew gathered around Peter Billingsly as they shot the "I shot my eye out!" scene.
And there is is! Scut Farkus's coonskin hat, which sat just atop his yellow eyes... yellow eyes! So help me god, yellow eyes!
And here's the original chalkboard from Mrs. Shield's classroom! Where Ralphie day dreamed he'd received an "A + + + + +" on his beloved theme.
Outside, there was a replica Oldsmobile, just like the Old Man had... and outside where Ralphie yelped "Oh.... FUUUUDDDGGGGEE." Only he didn't say "fudge..."
We finished up the tour at the gift shop, filled with all sorts of film memorabilia (most of which you can also purchase at the house's web site). We chose a new Christmas Story House ornament for our own tree this year, and Eric settled on a Major Award tie. And while I was tempted to pick up a pair of these pink bunny slippers, I opted against it, this year...
As silly as it sounds, it was hard for us to leave. We'd wanted to visit the house for so long, and we had such an incredible time while we were there. If we lived closer, we'd certainly make it a tradition to visit every year at Christmas time. I'd love to go in December, with snow on the ground and the lights all lit up, blasting the movie soundtrack. We will definitely make it a point to visit around Christmas one of these years, but for now we were just happy to get there now while we could!