Editorial board Christmas letter: Up on the housetop

Every year I struggle with writing this Christmas letter. This year’s theme — Favorite Christmas Movie — was particularly challenging.

Where I grew up in Western Montana, getting snowed-in once or twice during the winter wasn’t uncommon. Being snowed in meant deep snowdrifts which made the miles of country road between the ranch and town unpassable for as much as a week.

We never knew when a storm might hit, so trips to town in December were limited to those considered essential. That didn’t include a trip to the movie theater to watch Miracle on 34th Street.

That’s not to say Christmas movies weren’t part of my childhood. They were, in a way. I don’t recall which Christmas movie was my favorite as a child, but I clearly recall efforts to watch one.

On the ranch we received two television stations. When the wind blew enough to turn the antenna atop 12 feet of pipe strapped to the corner of the house — we received none.

In the winter restoring television reception required someone (me) wading through the snow to the rear of the house — in freezing temperatures, usually after dark. There I would spend an eternity turning the frozen pipe left, then right, then left again while yelling “how’s that” after every turn. For every “how’s that” I uttered, my mother watching the TV for signs of a picture would respond: “A little more,” “too much,” “go back,” or “the other way”.

Further complicating the exercise our television at that time had a “fine tuning” dial around the channel selector. It worked well, except when used in conjunction with antenna manipulation. Mom, rest her soul, loved that dial.

When I could no longer feel my face, self-preservation instincts took over and efforts to tune into that Christmas special were abandoned for hot chocolate and a hot game of pinochle.

I became quite good at pinochle.

But my depth of knowledge about Christmas movies was and remains limited. I’ve seen most of the classics and many of the new Christmas movies. How does one chose between Die Hard and Miracle on 34th Street?

I’m a fan of the classics so forced to pick a favorite I’d have to go with A Christmas Story. It’s one of the very few movies I will watch more than once. I feel like I’m watching a home movie. Ralphie and I had a lot in common.

Here’s hoping you get your version of the Red Ryder B.B. Gun this Christmas.