Scrooge

This week on Facebook a friend posted a picture of a ghost of Christmas past. It was me.

The picture is thirty-five years old but I never saw it until this past Monday.

I had the great honor and pleasure of being cast as the ghost of Jacob Marley in the McFadyen/Hoopman production of Scrooge, the musical version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Now, here’s the untold story: I had to put on those chains and hook up to the harness more than a half hour before my entrance. They had to haul me up to the rafters above the stage before the curtain opened and the show started. There I hung, suspended 20 feet above the stage, chains and all, while the audience enjoyed this long overture and then a wonderful scene with a crowd of men, women and child actors in costume singing a beautiful Christmas song.

?And when that was over and the thunderous applause died down…another song started as I continued to dangle overhead.

More applause. More music…

Ebeneezer Scrooge watches a rousing musical number by the kids.

Occasionally, one of the kids would glance up at me wondering if I was about to come crashing down on top of them. I never did of course but I’ll tell you this – the next number I hung around for was Scrooge himself, singing a song called “I Hate People”. By that time I was beginning to understand how he felt. I’d been drifting overhead for half an hour, chains and all. I was anxious to float down through a cloud of roiling fog as Marley and give old Scrooge what-for.

Those were great times. And it’s fun to see the pictures again and to realize how special a relatively few afternoons and evenings of my life have meant to me in the long run.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “the spirit of Christmases past, present and future will always live within me,” in great thanks to the wonderful theater family I was invited to join more than a generation ago.

Tiny Tim nailed it: “God bless us, every one.”

Music and lyrics for "Sing A Christmas Carol" by Leslie Bricusse, performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir & Orchestra.

Christmas from the attic

Carolann and I spent this past weekend getting Christmas out of the attic.

She goes up and hands everything down to me, box after box of Christmas treasures we’ve collected together for nearly thirty years.

A lot of people these days hire professional house light hangers.

They do a beautiful job. Too good, if you ask me. Everything’s weirdly perfect. And it’s expensive.

And I think there’s something wrong about sitting inside the warm house watching TV while strangers decorate your yard. Wrong for me, anyway.

We used most of what we’ve had for decades: boxes of tangled, ancient light strands in various sizes, some all-white, some multi-colored; some working, some not. We have one light in the line of dozens along the driveway that flashes. Just one. That’s fine.

Decorating tip: dangling cords can be hidden behind brick columns.

We didn’t do any precise planning. We sort of decided where to put stuff as we went. The pros get their work done in a couple of hours or less, I guess. We spent two days and part of a third. We’re still not sure we’ve finished.

Through the process we made three or four trips to the big box hardware store and wound up spending almost as much money as we would have for the professionally perfect jobs though ours is a decidedly unprofessional result.

It’s a bit of this and that but I like it.

We’re proud that we have no giant blowup characters powered by air at night but left to puddle, lifeless, all over the yard during the day.

See, to passersby our Christmas display is just another mish-mash of color and cords I suppose but to us it represents Christmases past, when our kids were little and we were young.

It means absolutely everything to us.

Our house, self-decorated. Perfect in its imperfections.

The Santa Problem

If you’re a parent of a young child chances are you have at least a little bit of guilt this time each year. It’s the Santa Claus dilemma. What do you tell your kids? When do you tell them and how?

I vaguely remember my mother telling me it was the spirit of Santa Claus that mattered.

I don’t have a lingering sense of being injured by this revelation. I’m sure I was disappointed but I have never felt betrayed by it.

I would never tell other parents how to raise their kids. It’s not my place and even though I have a couple of my own who turned out pretty well I can’t claim to be an expert on the subject. But if you’re wondering, here’s what I think about Santa:

Disappointment is part of life. It helps kids grow and to reason with their feelings.

What would be really sad for me is if I had grown up with no sense of magic in the world.

I’m 66 years old and I guarantee this Christmas Eve, like all the Christmases of my life, I will go outside or look at the sky through a window and search for that miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer. I don’t expect to see it, but you never know. And that’s what matters most in the world.

Our youngest grandson, Tyler.

Of all the things we gave our boys I am most proud of giving them wonder and magic.

There’s no lie in it. There is only eternity.