Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Vacation Countdown

Not everybody loves National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as much as we do in this household. So much that we’ve seen it from every angle, noticed every little nuance, basically analyzed the thing to death. And we don’t mind quoting it every now and again. So as a bit of an advent present to those of you who do the Christmas thing…here starts a brief rundown of the 10 most-used Christmas Vacation lines in our house. Note these aren’t necessarily the 10 best lines, just the 10 we use the most when talking to each other and trying to keep sane.

First, The Best of the Rest: These didn’t quite make the cut, not because they aren’t outstanding, but because we just use other lines more.
The big rant where Clark calls his boss 24 names. Probably deserves to be in the Top Ten but I’ve never been able to memorize it, even though I’ve spent virtually eons memorizing more frivolous items. So I never actually use it but just sit in awe of it.
We thank Clark Griswold for at least taking his frustrations out on his boss rather than the lead reindeer on Santa’s cavalcade. Because even though all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names, we doubt Dasher or Dancer had the gall to refer to the new guy as “Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer,” much less “Rudolph the Fat-Assed, Bug-Eyed, Spotty-Lipped, Worm-Headed Sack of Monkey S**t Reindeer.” Though maybe they did. And even if they did, we wouldn’t repeat that in front of our kids, because, as ever, we’re letting YOUR kids teach our kids all the swear words.
Once again I'm required to accompany each post with a picture.
All that said, Clark himself did punch his yard ornament Santa in the face and karate chop all the reindeer’s antlers off, so maybe he would have had some choice words in the heat of the moment for Rudolph, too. Hallelujah, Holy S**t.
"I’d like to see if I can fumigate this here chair." Again, not terribly relevant in our house except for when one of us has gas or spills a month’s worth of old milk into it.
"Oh here they are, here come the nuts." As the Griswold grandparents are watching the Christmas parade on TV or sleeping through it, the announcer, played by Doug Llewelyn, (yes that Doug Llewelyn from The People’s Court and Nirvana’s “In Bloom” video) notices that the wind is blowing the Nutcracker float off course. We say the line any time there is a bowl of nuts out, because we’re small-minded. And we’ll probably say it if we’re ever fortunate to be home when our kids get off the bus after school.

And finishing in last place?
Anything anybody says during the sledding scene. Would like to see some of the deleted scenes and see if we can’t replace the sledding scene with something from the archives.
On to the countdown:
10: "We’re going to press on, and we’re going have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye. And when Santa shoves his fat white ass down that chimney, he’s going to find the jolliest bunch of a-holes this side of the nuthouse."
OK, so we don’t really say all that, especially to our kids, but we at least start it when things are going crazy. We stop, breathe, collect ourselves, and press on. If kids are around we may change “since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye” to “We’ll have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer went down in history.” No, we won’t do that at all. Unless Burl Ives said it? Who knows?

9. "And I'll give AUDREY a quarter, too, Audrey."

People may look at this list and wonder how this made it, but this one simple, throw-away line is one of my favorites because it so perfectly embodies old people. Sure, senile Aunt Bethany and Uncle Louis have funnier lines that are delivered in sometimes spectacular fashion, but let's dissect these 8 words a little further.

First, in the line before, Nora Griswold is offering Rusty a quarter to rub the painful burr on her heel. And Rusty is stuck in a corner because he's been offered a woefully small award to perform such an awful task for a beloved family member. But to Nora Griswold this is big money, because she's from another era entirely, where that quarter probably gets her a down payment on a car.

It's funny because she then offers Audrey the same amount while expecting nothing in return, which is classic, old person behavior. The same people who preached "an honest day's pay for an honest day's work," and "didn't need no welfare state...everybody PULLED his WEIGHT!!" then turn around and make sure everything is exactly equal within the family, presumably to keep peace. The fact that she calls Audrey's name TWICE, with particular emphasis on the first instance, to draw attention to this act of benevolence just caps this perfect embodiment of old people. I'll do that one day and without shame.

Enough social commentary. I use this line a fair amount of time in the house, usually when I drop a coin on the kitchen floor, and kids come out of the woodwork like Hungry, Hungry Hippos to scoop it up. Strictly for sanity's sake, I'll offer a coin of equal value to the other two kids so they also have something to drop in their piggy bank. I promise you we're not Socialists. But when I give out the other two coins, I channel Nora Griswold and say,"And I'll give AUDREY a nickel, too, Audrey" and change the names. The kids have no idea what I'm doing. They'll know soon enough.

8. "Save the neck for me, Clark."

Sadly, this line is slowly sliding off the coutdown as the rest of the family catches on and family gatherings diminish in number. In the early days, before folks realized that 1 in 5 of our spoken sentences at family gatherings is a direct quote from the movie, we'd get some strange looks and some grossed-out looks like Ellen gives Eddie. Then we'd explain ourselves.

Now that people are up up to speed, they're offering me or one of my siblings or cousins the bird's neck before we have a chance to formally request it. Looks like this great line will soon have to be tucked away for good or at least put on a long hiatus, at the end of which we will no longer be getting together as an extended family, save for funerals. Long live "Save the neck for me, Clark."

7. "It's all part of the experience, honey."

Another line that doesn't get its due. As the Griswolds traipse through the forest, trudging up a hill in search of the perfect family Christmas tree, an increasingly agitated and cold Audrey's eyes have frozen and she can't talk any more. Her mother Ellen finally tells Clark, "Audrey's frozen from the waist down." To which clark dismissively responds, "It's all part of the experience, honey."

When kids are whining, bitching, moaning, complaining or when I'm doing the same at work, I'll pre-empt the complaining with an "It's all part of the experience." I try to not be as dismissive as Clark without adding fuel to the fire by caring too mcuh about the infraction. Just trying to put an end to all the whining. Especially my own.

Not everything can be simply "part of the experience," however. 'Dad, the kitcken counter is on fire!" Not part of the experience. "Honey, we may have left one of the kids back at the jumpy house place." Not part of the experience. "Daddy, he's standing in the spot I wanted to stand in and now he's looking at me." That's part of the experience. Go find your shoes. Then go find your brother's shoes.

6. "You set standards no family can live up to."

Many would think this is said about me, but I'm actually the one who uses it, to my wife, especially around Christmas, when she claims that nothing Christmas-ish can really happen until the entire house is immaculate.

Which is a joke, because kids. If Jesus is indeed the reason for the season, and the Virgin Mary decided not to have Him until the house was totally clean, we'd still be waiting for Christmas. Part of my role in the relationship is to ensure that the house is barely clean enough for Santa to come in and drop off the presents without waking the kids by tripping over their discarded toys from (literally) yesteryear. But also to try to convince everyone else not to freak out about the dishes.

Can't wait to see #5 through #1? Here they are.           

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