My memories of growing up in the Connolly household are full of fond, watercolor pictures of Arizona and Saturday mornings at home, blasting musical classics such as Sloop John B and Let me Sleep on It, by the Beach Boys and Meatloaf, respectively. I also remember moving to Wyoming and being surprised to find it was not the forested wilderness I expected but a flat, treeless prairie instead.
I recall early viewings of Vacation and European Vacation; the song Holiday Road gives me goose bumps to this very day (I know cause I purposefully listen to it when I need to get excited). That being said, my appreciation for comedies and my admiration for the comedic genius of Chevy Chase sprouted at around age 8. But above all other childhood recollections, the one thing that really stands out in my early years is my father’s zealous and impassioned celebration of Christmas.
My awkward teenage years brought birthdays celebrated by blowing out the candles with Christmas lights twinkling in the background and Billy Squire’s Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You playing right after my family’s loud rendition of Happy Birthday. I learned to drive in empty parking lots next to cut-down Evergreen and Blue Spruce sales. And I received combo-gift after combo-gift from my girlfriends banking on my birthday’s proximity to December 25th.
My early associations with Jesus and the big S.C., impressionable teenage years intermixed with holiday décor and music, and my Dad’s celebratory devotion instilled within me a great love and passion for Christmas that I’ve found difficult to match. Its my most anticipated, celebrated, and hap, hap, happiest day of the year.
After this jolly childhood, I found my way off to college. My first visit to Laramie, WY landed me at the Sigma Chi house and I vividly remember the first time I met Robert Sullivan (Sully). We were playing a round of Trapped and drinking Ruby Red Squirt with Captain Morgan (well, I was drinking that, he probably was not). For those of you who haven’t tried it, it tastes just like orange sherbet going down…….and coming back up…so don’t bother. I also met my future spouse, John McBride, and later met Jesse Driscoll (future BFF and Sully's future wife). Four years of college, two weddings, and six years of living close-by in Fort Collins have cultivated a pretty strong friendship between the McBride’s and Sullivan’s.
John, a lover of Fletch and Caddyshack but not as impassioned by Christmas as I, has always agreed to watch Christmas Vacation with me (and refuses to watch any other holiday film). Sharing this movie with my spouse and reminiscing in childhood memories of the original Vacation and my Dad’s holiday dedication earned Christmas Vacation a pretty high spot on my “favorite movie” list. My excitement bubbles over just thinking about the cinematic masterpiece and did so one day while hanging out with the Sullivan’s. Over homebrew and football, Sully and I realized that we shared the same enthusiasm for the film, as well as all other things Christmas. I had met my match when it comes to Christmas cheer….we are, you might say, kindred spirits. (Cue Jesse and John eye-roll).
Well, the discovery of this shared fervor led to excited talks of reindeer, jingle bells, caroling, and naturally, watching Christmas Vacation. Alarmed by the early arrival sugarplums, holly, and ol’ St. Nick, John and Jesse quickly established the “No Christmas until November 1st” rule.
Ever since, on November 1st, John and I jump in our old front-wheel drive sleigh and head on over the Sullivan’s to watch what has become the most important of Christmas symbols to me, Christmas Vacation. In recent years, we’ve expanded to a double-feature with Elf quickly becoming a group favorite. I now look forward to November 1st with the same anticipation, zeal and excitement that I used to hold only for Christmas.
To me, Christmas Vacation means it’s the second best day of the year and I get to spend it with my best friends. Although the movie is truly an American Classic for reasons far beyond this egocentric narrative, my own appreciation for the film has quadrupled thanks to our now-traditional celebration of November 1st. I think Clark Griswold said it best, “The most enjoying traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.”
Thith movie is a thymbol of the thpirit of the Sullivan & McBride kick-off to Chrithmath.