Ralphie and Me..Good Chemistry

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I see TBS is going to run one of my favorite movies of all time, A Christmas Story, 24 hours straight again..that’s 12 times non-stop beginning Christmas Eve.
I was one of those who actually went to see the film when it first came out in theaters in 1983 and have seen it at least once every year since.
From the opening scene to the closing credits, the movie takes me back to my own childhood..especially when I was ten.
But instead of the Red Ryder carbon action 200 shot range model air rifle that Ralphie wanted for Christmas,  I had my heart set on  a Gilbert chemistry lab with 561 exciting experiments for years of fun and adventure.
 I don’t know if my desire for that chemistry set was based on a healthy scientific curiosity or the early warning signs of becoming a terrorist but the thought of mixing chemicals together really sounded like fun.
I pulled out all the stops to try convincing my mom that this wasn’t a toy but an educational tool that could one day lead to my finding a cure for cancer or at very least a formula for removing corns.
But just like Ralphie Parker was repeatedly admonished by his mother, teacher and even Santa himself…”you’ll shoot your eye out”.. my mom’s response to the chemistry set argument was “you’ll blow the house up.”So I wasn’t expecting much that Christmas Eve in 1956 when after supper, my parents along with several of my aunts and uncles found seats in the living room around the Christmas tree (provided free each year from Haas & Wolfe Lumber Yard) then called us kids in to open presents.
After going through a few packages containing socks, some new jeans and a couple other gifts parents think kids really want and appreciate, it was over. There were no more presents with my name on them.
Then, just like Ralphie’s old man, my dad couldn’t stand looking at the disappointment on my face any longer and motioned for me to check under the davenport. (couch)
And there it was!
I tore off the wrapping and let out a whoop when I saw the name Gilbert on the front of the orange metal box.
We weren’t huggers in my family so my appreciation amounted to a loud “thanks!”
Somehow, just like in “A Christmas Story,” dad had overruled mom on the danger factor and had gotten me the absolute perfect Christmas gift.
Of course he and mom both had second thoughts when later that evening, my cousin and I cooked up a batch of chemicals in a test tube on the Bunsen burner that the book called “kitty gas.”
It was as if a skunk had sprayed his load directly into the heat vents of the house with an odor so foul that our company left for home early.
It sure was a great gift, though!
I still have it sitting on a shelf in my computer room to remind me of that fabulous Christmas 51 years ago.
Sadly, kids today will likely never know the thrill of owning a chemistry set.
Even if companies still make them, it’s hard to imagine parents, who won’t let their kids ride a bike unless they’re padded-up like a hockey goalie, would ever allow them to hold a spoonful of powdered iron over an open flame to see the sparks fly or let them shake-up a test tube mixture of strontium chloride and aluminum sulphate just to find out what happens.
Nope..they’ll have be content with listening to grandpas, like me, tell stories of how we somehow managed to survive those dangerous life-threatening toys we got for Christmas back in the olden days.
P.S. Have a favorite Christmas toy story you’d care to share? Click the comments below.

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