Mom the Defender




It’s one of the sweetest moments in cinema history, and if you flip over to TBS this Christmas, their 24-hour marathon guarantees you’ll see Ralphie hoping for that BB gun (You’ll shoot your eye out!). But there’s a scene where Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) gets into a fight with Scut Farkus, the neighborhood bully, and manages to beat him up. Unfortunately, as he’s flailing away, a torrent of obscenities spills out of his mouth and Ralphie’s mom has to tug him loose and take her sobbing son home.

Mom in this story is a wondrous Melinda Dillon, and she plays this part pitch-perfect. She bathes his wounds and tells him to lie down and compose himself. But Ralphie’s beside himself, knowing Dad (a fire-breathing Darrin McGavin), will soon be home and will surely brandish the legendary strap.

In the kitchen, Mom hears whimpering from the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Little Randy is hysterical: “Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie!” “No, he’s not; Daddy is NOT going to kill Ralphie.” “Yes, he is.” She offers him a glass of milk and he stays in his hideout; both boys are dreading the arrival of their father.

When Dad gets home, a pensive Ralphie creeps to the table, awaiting judgment. Sure enough. Dad jumps right in on Ralphie. “Where are your glasses?” (Got busted in the fight.) “Did you lose your glasses again?” Mom edges herself between them with an innocuous fib. “Ralphie, remember you left these on the radio again. Now try not to do that anymore.”

When Dad presses for the day’s headlines, Mom carefully admits: “Ralphie had a fight.” Dad: “A fight? What kind of a fight?” And Ralphie’s mom passes it off. “You know how boys are. I gave him a talking to.”

Just then she spots the out heaven is offering her and the fragile son she’s protecting. Glancing at Mr. Parker’s sports page, she distracts him. “I see that the Bears are playing Green Bay on Sunday.” “Oh, yeah,” he responds, mentally following her right to the offramp. “Zadock’s got tickets. I wish I had.”

He buries his nose to the football stats, the fight forgotten, and there’s this sweet look that passes between Mom and son. Not a single word is spoken, but her loving gaze says it all. “I’ve got your back, sweetheart. I may have to be clever, even diabolical about it, but I will always be your defender.”

The narrator respectful concludes: “From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”


Merry Christmas, everybody.

About David B. Smith

I'm a math professor at San Bernardino Valley College - awesome place! - and author of adult Christian fiction. Lisa and I have two grown daughters and four grandkids.
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