by Melissa Uhrin
One of my favourite Christmas movies both growing up and as an adult is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which without a doubt stems from the fact that my dad is Clark Griswold. Fact. He's the Dad that tries his best to ensure every moment of the season is magical, special and meaningful. But the inevitable shit always goes down leaving us with the telltale wide-eyes of barely restrained keeping-it-together-ness. And for the first time in twenty years, I get to wake up on Christmas morning and spend it with my Dad. My Clark Griswold.
The movie is an almost frame by frame take of all of my childhood Christmas memories. We did the trek through the woods to find the perfect tree (a tradition I am so happy he has continued on with his grandkiddies), but the military in my dad would ensure the measurements were correct-ish. I can remember a couple years when our angel would spend the holiday season with a kink in her neck atop the tree, ever so lightly being smushed into the ceiling. And the sap...even more than twenty years later I remember that fricken sap somehow getting onto and into everything.
Time and time again every well intentioned gesture appears to momentarily break him down, but Clark Griswold is so resolved that THIS Christmas be the BEST Christmas that he forges on regardless of how many things go to shit. He and my Dad are the epitome of Christmas spirit. No matter the situation they persevere until finally they are white knuckling the ends of two extension cords, slowly bringing them together with what can only be described as a look of constipated fury, finally culminating in the HALLELUJAH of success. That look. I don't need to turn on the TV to revisit that. It's the one that time and again appears whenever MY Clark Griswold nears his breaking point, but being the man that he is, it also immediately reverts to glowing happiness the instant things work as they should.
The genetics run strong in our family (heh heh), and growing up with Clark Griswold as my Dad has ensured that every year, I too strive for holiday perfection. And the magic is that somehow each year always manages to kick last Christmas' ass.
Anything that can take me back to the wonderful magic of Christmases long ago and the dysfunction they were wrapped up in has done it's job. With all the stress and frenzy of the season, people have a tendency to lose the Christmas spirit, but with this movie is full of the heart, love and humour that help to remind us what it's all about.
....Watching your Dad's look of constipated fury just as he's nearing his breaking point, of course.