So much happiness
“He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk– that anything– could give him so much happiness.” ― Charles Dickens
Everywhere we have lived, in big cities and small coastal towns, there has been at least one (and sometimes more than one) annual theatrical production of Dickens’ beloved classic A Christmas Carol. My delight at the widespread and enduring popularity of this story has been surpassed only by my amazement at the near-impossibility of getting good tickets anytime close to Christmas. This year, I made the mistake of waiting until late November to get tickets to the Ford’s Theater production. I’ll know better next year.
My siblings and I were raised on this story, learning it alongside the Bible stories we were taught from earliest memory. We gleefully saw every version of the Scrooge story that was filmed over the years, and enjoyed almost every one; several are among those we watch again and again. Some of us favor the Alistair Sim version, others the Albert Finney version or the Muppet version or the Magoo version, not to mention the unforgettable Dr. Seuss version (aka the Grinch). All end with the ebullient joy of a miser who discovers, in the nick of time (no pun intended) that it’s never to late to have a good and happy life.
Among the artifacts I treasure most are my father’s childhood copy of the book (which I believe was given to him by his Aunt Henrietta, whence came most of the books in that family) and a very old reel-to-reel tape of him reading the entire novella aloud, for us to have available if he had to be out flying on Christmas Eve. I’m thankful to remember only one such occasion when he was absent; Daddy was the heart and soul of Christmas in our home, and his love of A Christmas Carol is one of the finest gifts he gave his children. All four of us adore the tale, as do our children and presumably, in years to come, their children.
What is it about this story that appeals to generation after generation of readers? It’s partly due to the venerated skill of the author, whose ability to create characters is unsurpassed. The ghostly aspects of the story add an exciting shiver of suspense, and the plot moves quickly while encompassing an amazing amount of detail in a relatively few words.
But I think it’s the central theme of the story that strikes a chord within so many of us. Who among us has not felt alone, misunderstood or unwanted at some time or other? Which of us does not fear poverty, or hesitate to share whatever possessions we claim? How many of us are thoughtless about what our friends and fellow workers may be enduring? Scrooge lives in each of us, for better or worse.
Little wonder, then, that his jubilant reclamation draws us to his story again and again. For all of us, I wish the sort of Christmas old Scrooge was finally able to have. May it bring us the multitude of pleasures he discovered; joys that had lain dormant within his reach for far too many years.
My love of this season is no secret to anyone who has ever been within five feet of me at this time of year. In fact, I once joked that I wanted this quote from the end of Dickens’ story to be read at my funeral: “…it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
So today I finish with the rest of that quote: “May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”