I am grateful for Charles Dickens.
My children’s Christmas art work is up, the creations from their early childhood. Christmas lights are up. Nat and Bing are singing their versions of seasonal favourites to me. The snow comes and goes. The pileated woodpeckers are providing their background percussion as I walk. A deer bounds over the road in front of me; Gracie thinks of taking up chase, but reconsiders when I remind her of good manners. Squirrels share jokes in the trees, their voices comical. I am blessed with such a peaceful space around me. I tuck into my chair with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a shortbread cookie or two and celebrate Christmas with my favourite gift: remembering.
Every year I watch A Christmas Carol and am reminded, as we all are, of the importance of the season, regardless of our faith. The ghosts come and go and Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t transformed into something new, but rather, his soul is reconnected to the child he used to be. We are all born perfect and pure, without racism and prejudice in our genes, without judgment and unkindness in our actions. I think Christmas is meant to reconnect us all to our perfect selves.
Dickens had to leave school as a youngster and work to support his family. He knew education would help impoverished children have a better life and after a visit to a school where he witnessed the horrendous neglect of London’s poor children he penned A Christmas Carol, 176 years ago, and still this story captivates and reminds us of what matters. I think about those ghosts in Charles Dickens’ story and what they might have to say if they visited me.
If the Ghost of Christmas Past came calling on me on Christmas Eve, the first of the visitors to Ebenezer Scrooge, I would offer him a cup of something warm, tea perhaps or mulled wine. I would tell him all about my childhood Christmases, the snow sprayed from a can on to the windows’ glass in the shapes of horses and sleighs, of stars and angels; Christmas breakfast of cocoa and toast, dipping and watching the butter flow into the cocoa; my mother on the piano playing all of her Christmas favourites; Perry Como’s soothing voice reciting The Night Before Christmas on the scratchy, well-worn record; hanging my father’s work socks on the back of a chair, claiming which chair we wanted to snuggle in on Christmas morning to pull out the surprises that Santa had brought with always a mandarin orange in the toe; my sister and I certain we could hear Santa’s sleigh on the roof and the “prancing and pawing of each little hoof”. I hope the ghost could offer up some memories of mine that have slipped away, so that I might revisit them again, could hear the sound of my father’s voice, his laugh, the touch of his hand. If only he could show me the scenes of my daughters when they were wee ones and in awe of Christmas.
The Ghost of Christmas Present might have some frightening reminders for me: the environment, government that forgets its promises and its obligations, neighbours arguing over perceived differences, my sketchy relationship with vegetables.
I like to think the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come would have a happy story for me. The ghost would pat my hand and tell me not to worry, that we will stop holding others to a higher standard than ourselves, and we will rediscover there is more than one view to any subject. I’d like to think he would say we will all be welcome at the metaphorical dinner table and will know that spending time with each other in laughter and love is far more important than what we wrap and place under the tree.
I wish you peace, joy, and love. And I hope we all find our way back to our child selves.