There’s something familiar about the porch-flanked century home, backed by a pine fence the color of Ovaltine. An 1895 Tremont relic with sage-trimmed windows, it should be dipped in icicles, hazy with the golden light of a Rockwell memory. But ... could it be? Yes, glowing and shapely, the bright burn of a leg lamp gleams in the front window. I’m staying overnight in A Christmas Story House, a peak holiday experience offered to little Ralphies everywhere. For $395 a night, the house where all the movie’s exterior shots and 60 percent of its indoor scenes were filmed is mine to re-create every Bumpus blunder and Bad Bart gunfight — or retire to the more modern third-floor loft with kitchen, living room, bedroom and separate entrance. “For so many people, this is their favorite movie,” says Brian Jones, the house’s owner. “This is almost like coming home. ... There’s just that tactile response you can’t get without staying in the house itself.”
For my overnight, I’ve brought my own Old Man, my boyfriend Jordan. After dropping our bags in the cozy living room of the back loft (complete with a tower of Christmas DVDs), we head through a cream-colored door in the loft’s kitchen and into winter 1940.
With a mug of hot tea (the handle in the shape of a leg lamp), I settle into the dusty red, velvet armchair in the family room, reaching over to press the lit-up buttons on the wood-paneled radio in search of Little Orphan Annie. Jordan heads for the Christmas tree, passing a socket sprouting a mass of tangled extension cords and the glorious leg lamp. Pushing aside the Old Man’s bowling ball, he lifts the famous Red Ryder BB gun, slings it onto his shoulder, and then positions himself in the front window to photo bomb the lookie-loos snapping pictures from the sidewalk outside.
“They’ll think you’re a ghost,” I say.
“It’ll make a better picture,” says he.
Sure he’ll get in trouble, I head to the kitchen, crawling into the cupboard under the sink to fear for his life.
But soon, we’re hungry, and though no Bumpus dogs ate our turkey, the one on the Parkers’ Formica table is sadly plastic. Fortunately, with our admission to the house comes a 10 percent coupon for the Rowley Inn across the street, the same intimate tavern where the cast and crew of the 1983 film ate meals.
After, we head “home,” put on DMX’s cover of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” (a bit post-1940, but more our style) and play A Christmas Story Party Game on the scratchy family room carpet, trading trivia questions. I win, but I do not, as I threatened, make him taste the bar of Lifebuoy soap on the porcelain bathroom counter upstairs. There are already bite marks in it, and I would like to keep my boyfriend.
We’ve decided to sleep in Ralphie and Randy’s twin beds. I open my notebook on Ralphie’s window-side desk, pushing aside his C+ essay, rewritten word-for-word. It’s late October, and there’s no snow on the windowsill (or mashed potato flakes, which the crew used to simulate snow on screen).
But Tremont looks more festive from where I sit, watching from within the preserved memory of a Christmas classic, a time capsule that makes guests feel like they won a major award. 3159 W. 11th St., Cleveland, 216-298-4919, achristmasstoryhouse.com