My favorite Christmas movie is ‘A Christmas Story,’ in which little Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. It’s a great movie and, of course, a classic piece of Americana. I try to watch it at least once a year.
The first time I saw it, though, I was hardly prepared for the horror scene toward the end. On Christmas morning, Ralphie and his little brother, Randy, open their gifts from their Aunt Clara. Ralphie’s is a pink bunny costume. Ralphie tries to keep from having to even take it out of the box, but his mother insists.
As he pulls the suit out, Ralphie narrates that, “Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually four years old, but also a girl.” The suit is, ah, how shall I put this, hideous.
Darrin McGavin, who plays Ralphie’s dad, is obviously appalled, but his mom likes it. While Dad hangs his head in disgust, Mom goes on about how sweet the suit is. Ralphie is, as any normal, healthy boy would be in such a situation, mortified.
Mom wants Ralphie to go upstairs and put the suit on. Ralphie tries to refuse, but his mom insists. Dad, wisely, stays out of it. This is why guys don’t ever completely trust each other – they often fail to stand up for one another when the chips are down.
So Ralphie is forced to go put the suit on, and then doesn’t want to come back down the stairs, but his mother insists again. Women are like that.
When he appears in the suit, it is obvious Ralphie has been contemplating suicide, and is still undecided. His mom thinks the suit is adorable, while Dad is dismayed. The pink suit is a onesie, with a hood, bunny ears, and feet that feature bunny heads at the front. And we wonder why so many people need therapy these days.
Randy laughs, Mom thinks the suit is ‘precious,’ and Dad, finally deciding to make an effort, says, “You look like a deranged Easter Bunny. A pink nightmare.” He asks Ralphie, “Are you happy wearing that?” Which could go down in history as probably the dumbest question ever uttered. Ralphie shakes his head. Dad says, “You want to take it off?” (Second dumbest question). Ralphie nods. He is, at last, allowed to go back upstairs and get out of the suit.
The first time I saw that scene I worried, because in the back of my mind there was a faint memory, one I had worked to suppress for years, of a similar bunny suit. A suit my mother made for me when I was two, and which she forced me to actually wear OUTSIDE the house. Of course, I never mentioned my suit, and as the years passed, neither did anyone else. I had hopes that evidence of my humiliation would never surface. After all, cameras were rare in those days, and photographs often get lost or fade with time.
Unfortunately, my brother, who had never before demonstrated sadistic tendencies, recently managed to come up with a copy of a picture of me in my bunny suit. Instead of doing The Right Thing, as anyone with compassion would have done, and destroying the picture without telling anyone, my brother hung onto it. And then, probably regressing to a state of revenge over some perceived slight from our childhood, he posted the picture to Facebook.
Honestly, I have no idea what I did to my brother in the past that would cause him to want to ruin my life. I’ve tried to be a good brother. I even gave him a bunch of the stuff back that he had traded to me when we were kids, like his baseball glove and a basketball. I even found his G.I. Joe space capsule in the attic, and gave that to him. I could have sold it on ebay for some pretty big bucks, but I didn’t. And now this.
At least the suit is white, not pink. It was actually a pair of white jeans, a long-sleeved white shirt that looked like something a chef would wear, and a white hood that tied under the chin, with two big bunny ears sticking up from it. I think I only wore it because Mom promised me all the chocolate I could eat. I had no idea that, more than half a century later, that suit would come back to haunt me. And I especially never imagined that my own brother would turn on me so viciously.
But the best way to conquer our fears is to face them head-on, so I’m getting this out in the open so I can get over it. I’m hoping the therapy will do some good, too.
The best therapy, however, is revenge. I have pictures of my brother, too, pictures he’s probably forgotten about. I’m going through old albums, and I will find them.
There will be a reckoning . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has always wondered why he enjoyed shooting rabbits so much. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org