THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST

Every Christmas season brings back a flood of memories for most of us. Some recollections make us smile while others are tinged with sadness, especially after parents, relatives and close friends no longer are with us.

Some of our favorite remembrances involve our less than enthusiastic young children — and me — playing Christmas carols for grandparents on Christmas Eve. The instrumentation was a little weird: two trumpets, jingle bells, drums and flute. Our three boys eventually stopped studying music, which left our daughter the solo task of playing carols on the piano annually while her brothers snickered between their parent’s threatening glances. Our children also read holiday poems and glowing tributes written especially for each adult.

We’ll never forget that Christmas morning when a surprise guinea pig escaped from his ventilated gift box and climbed the Christmas tree to flee from the dog and cat in hot pursuit through the remaining presents. And we took movies the year our children tried out new roller skates on the snowy driveway filming each of them outdo a sibling with spectacular Olympic-like slips and falls.

There is one year that was different from all the rest and it stands out in my mind. I call it “The Ghost of Christmas Past.” It has no connection to the fictional character in A Christmas Carol by English novelist Charles Dickens whose angelic vision is the first of three spirits to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. Our ghost didn’t carry as much character building qualities as Dickens’ apparition who shows Scrooge scenes from his past around Christmas to demonstrate the necessity of changing his ways. Our ghoul was not as commendable.

The year was 1984. In June, a supernatural comedy film premiered written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It was called Ghostbusters. The film stared Bill Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis as eccentric, former professors who set up a paranormal ghost removal shop in New York City. Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis co-stared as a client and her neighbor.

Ghostbusters received a positive response from critics and theater audiences, and was nominated for two Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song. The clever theme, titled “Ghostbusters,” was written and performed by Ray Parker, Jr., which sparked the catchphrase “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

When the movie became a smash, HBO reportedly had an exclusive deal with Columbia Pictures for broadcast rights. If my memory serves me correctly, Ghostbusters first showing on television was Christmas Eve 1984.

Our kids all were teenagers at the time, ranging in ages 17, 16, 15 and 13. They went ballistic since they missed the movie in the theaters and said they had to see it on Christmas Eve after our traditional guests left. I remember bribing them that I would record the movie and we would watch it together after we all attended Midnight Mass! (Actually, “Midnight Mass” was celebrated at St. Therese Church before midnight at about 10:30 p.m.)

When we got home from church our teenagers couldn’t wait to get into their pajamas and play the movie. I reluctantly put the strains of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in the back of my mind as the Ghostbusters’ theme began.

You know what? My wife, Marty, and I actually enjoyed ourselves. It wasn’t our traditional Christmas Eve custom of sitting by the shimmering tree, sipping hot chocolate and Scotch, while our children were in their beds enjoying visions of who-knows-what dancing in their heads.

After Ghostbusters ended we all were too keyed up to go to bed so we started playing music. Actually, we began sharing music. Marty and I played a couple of hits from the 1950s and ‘60s and then our teens chose some of their favorite selections from the 1970s and early ‘80s. We also told stories of what we were doing when a particular song was popular and shared details about our respective generations.

It was well into Christmas morning when the last of us finally crashed into bed. But the whole experience – from watching Ghostbusters and sharing our music – brought us all closer together.

For a couple of years, we tried duplicating that music-sharing event but it never worked out like it did in 1984. We finally gave up the ghost, so to speak, and entrusted the experience to our bank of special Christmas memories.

Vince LaBarbera

Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library.

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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer