A Christmas Carol along with her. It had been several years since I last read it, so I quickly agreed. (Plus, it gave me an excuse to buy an edition I've been drooling over for the last year. <-----)
This month, Mike and I also took Aaron to a local theater production of A Christmas Carol. Much of the script was lifted directly from the novel, a fact I was able to easily recognize since I was in the middle of my reading when we went to see it. I loved being able to hear the words spoken and also compare and contrast the things they decided to keep versus the things they decided to change.
So yes, A Christmas Carol was definitely the backdrop for my December this year, and while you don't need a recap or traditional review of the story, I wanted to share just three of my favorite moments that stood out this time around.
The first is a scene that was brand-new to me, or at least it seemed so. I have no previous recollection of it, and I seriously wonder how I couldn't have paid more attention to it before. It takes place years after Belle released Ebenezer from their mutual contract. The scene is a happy one: a mother and daughter sitting by the fire while children (more children than "Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count") run around the room laughing and playing. In that moment, a knock is heard at the door, and upon entering, the father (for that is who it is) is greeted by the most "irrepressible affection."
There is no question that this is a happy home and that this is the life Belle found for herself. But then, this, the striking, heartbreaking contrast: Belle's husband says, "I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon," and of course it was Ebenezer Scrooge. He saw him as he was walking by Scrooge's office window, and when he glanced in, he saw Scrooge sitting there alone, "quite alone in the world, I do believe." I think this is perhaps the only scene from the Past where the reader catches a tiny glimpse of what might have been. All of the other scenes show who he once was and remind him of the happiness he once felt. But this one shows how his greedy and miserly actions actually cut him off from the things that would have brought him true joy. It could have been him being greeted by a half dozen children. It could have been him sitting by the fire next to his wife. But he gave up that life when he decided money was more important.
The second moment I wish to mention features Nephew Fred. I've always liked Fred--his generous heart, his boisterous personality, his fun-loving self. But this time, I realized just how genuine a person he was as well. Year after year, he went to Uncle Ebenezer to invite him to Christmas dinner. He didn't do it out of obligation or as a token of goodwill that he knew he'd never have to follow through on. No, year after year, he made the invitation in all sincerity, hoping that this would be the year that Scrooge would finally say yes. Of course, there's the scene later on at the party during the game of Yes or No where he gives a rather unfavorable description of his uncle, but it's all out of fun and not out of malice or spite. In fact, after the game, Fred's wife exclaims, "I have no patience with him," and Fred replies, "Oh, I have! I am sorry for him; I couldn't be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims! Himself, always." I would love to be more like Fred--to feel sympathy for others, give them the benefit of the doubt, and always be ready to welcome them if they have a change of heart.
And finally, during this reading, I was struck anew by Scrooge's complete transformation. ("Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.") I loved it, and yet the cynical part of me couldn't help thinking, Really? He's been tightfisted with money for so many years and now he's showering it on other people without a second thought? He has hated people's enthusiasm and goodwill, but now he's saying, "What a delightful boy! It's a pleasure to talk to him." He hasn't laughed in who knows how long and now, all of a sudden, it seems to be his favorite thing to do?
And yet, transformations like this really do happen. Gretchen Rubin calls them "lightning bolt moments" where something (and not necessarily something as dramatic as ghostly visitors) sparks a change and makes you do a complete 180. It's happened to me before (although not as often as I'd like), and I can think of other real life examples where just the right push happened to tip the scale and transform a life (hopefully for the better, although sadly, I've seen it happen in reverse as well).
Before Scrooge parts from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he pleads, "Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?" I think that's something most people ask themselves in one form or another. Have my previous actions set my course in an unwavering, unforgiving line? Or can I make a course correction and turn my life in a different direction? The take-home message of Ebenezer Scrooge's story is, yes, there's always time to change for the better. It's never too late.
I believe it's that message of hope, more than anything else, that has kept this book as one of the most beloved classics.