A Christmas Carol. The defining literary work of the holiday season. So many versions of it. So many different actors who have played Ebenezer Scrooge. Many have done so wonderfully over the years. Among them Jim Backus as Mr. Magoo, Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Patrick Stewart, and, yes, Jim Carrey in the most recent version out just a few years ago. (Although, in this writer’s opinion, Carrey was outdone by Gary Oldman’s masterwork as Bob Cratchit and several other characters . . .)
I fell in love with this story as a small girl. The first version I remember had the aforementioned Mr. Magoo in the lead. The part that most affected me was the scene when Magoo as Scrooge returned to his schoolroom and confronted the child he once was.
Now, I am sure this especially touched me because the child in the show was about my age, and his experience did not seem that different from my own. No, I was not abandoned to my schoolmaster for extra lessons by my parents. I was in no way neglected. And I had friends. But at some fundamental level, I very much understood the young Ebenezer when he sang:
“A hand for each hand was planned for the world
Why don’t my fingers reach?
Millions of grains of sand in the world
Why such a lonely beach?
Where is a voice to answer mine back?
Where are two shoes that click to my clack?
I’m all alone in the world.”
Maybe to an extent all children feel that way. It’s hard to make yourself heard when you are small. And it’s hard to know if anyone really, truly understands. Particularly when you, as a child, live in this world but in other worlds as well. Worlds where Barbie weddings are matters of great import. And all ideas of what you will be when you grow up seem perfectly logical and attainable. (Somehow, you’ll manage to juggle being the first female president and a professional detective all at once.) And there is no doubt of the actual existence of Santa Claus. And it’s totally possible that a person can be visited by ghosts who help him understand his past, scare him into fearing his future, and consequently appreciate and make the most of his present.
Flashforward several years. The young girl is now a woman of middle age, lucky enough to still have relatively young parents and to live close to them and to her brother–the three people with whom she grew up. She has many friends of longstanding and good relationships with other relatives, colleagues, and associates. And she sees a new interpretation of Dickens’s classic work, which contains a song. This time lyrics that affect her most strongly are as follows:
“To the voices no one hears
We have come to find you.
With your laughter and your tears…
Goodness, hope, and virtue
Father, Mother, Daughter, Son
Each a treasure be.
One candle’s light dispels the night;
Now our eyes can see—
Burning brighter than the sun.
God Bless Us Everyone”
I am grateful to no longer feel alone in the world. To appreciate the father, mother, daughter, son of my family of origin, and, with the same true love, the father, mother, daughter, and son of the family I have helped to create. My role has stayed the same. My role has changed. Sometimes I run from the past, and sometimes I dread the future. But I am learning, each day to bless and maximize the present.