I suffer no small amount of grief from friends and acquaintances that know of my penchant for Christmas music. I’m unapologetic about it and I listen year round.
There truly aren’t enough songs out there with messages of love and peace and joy to the world. Even Mr. Scrooge eventually declared he would keep the holiday spirit all through the year. Yes, we need more unbridled affection, tolerance and generosity.
As a kid with a keen analytical mind that practically never shut down, I bought into this philosophy hook, line and tinsel. That sort of thing makes good sense when you’re seven. But even Ebenezer would testify it’s no easy task. Who wants to be around someone so relentlessly and ruthlessly cheerful every bloody day of the year? I get it.
So yes, I slide in some yuletide tunes every month or so. I’m no longer seven but I still need the fix. And it’s all the doing of that dear Mr. Dickens.
When the real holiday rolls around, I wrap myself up in the tradition of it all and am happy when I stumble upon any previously undiscovered bits of seasonal fare.
For the past several years, holidays have been relatively quiet since my family is widely distributed around the country. One of these recent Christmas mornings alone at home I turned on the television and discovered a 1938 version of “A Christmas Carol” I had never seen. Perfect!
I’m in the best of moods, all settled in for the telling of a good tale. And then it happened. My analytical mind woke up.
About ten minutes into the film I started wondering — what exactly is wrong with Tiny Tim?
Neither Mr. Dickens nor any of the film adaptations I’ve seen have ever been clear on this point.
While this very thought is building up a healthy head of steam on the hamster wheel in my mind, up on the screen Bob Cratchit comes bounding down the hall of his home with little Tiny Tim perched high on his shoulders. Really high.
And they’re headed straight for a very low doorway.
And suddenly it hits me what the kid’s malady is — Bob Cratchit is an idiot. A sweet-natured, bumbling good guy, yes. But still an idiot. Multiple and massive head trauma is surely in store for this kid, but no one else in the family ever seems to notice, especially Bob.
“Poor Tiny Tim,” they cry. “The nose bleeds and dizzy spells are getting worse. His hats no longer fit and the doctors are stumped.”
I’m trying to recapture the feeling of a holly-trimmed, pine scented Christmas of yore and my damned brain won’t turn off. Why can’t I just enjoy this?
As the film progresses, a disturbing pattern continues to develop. Consider when the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come announces, “If these things remain unchanged, Tiny Tim will not live to see another Christmas.”
Well, yeah. This kid’s not going to make it to New Years if Bob keeps smacking his little noggin into those solid oak door frames.
Later in the graveyard scene, it’s a little off-putting trying to stay with the story when I just can’t help scanning the background to see if maybe there are a few other little “Cratchit” headstones for Tiny Tim’s predecessors. Long-gone tykes like himself who suffered the same unwitting fate.
I made it through the end of the movie and of course it was all smiles and warmth and giddy camaraderie. But I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I’d somehow been robbed of a bit more of the innocence we all hold in reserve to see us through the horrors of adulthood.
I still lament a bit for all my grown friends who heeded the call to “act your age”. In so doing, far too many among us have allowed the lessons of childhood to slip away. It’s important — in fact crucial — as an adult to remember to laugh at ourselves and to play like children. These are mandatory requirements for being a fully functional adult.
As evidence in my argument I call your attention to the main character of “A Christmas Carol”. Charles Dickens did not write this story for children. His target audience was, and is, any and every contemporary of Ebenezer Scrooge.
At any age, and at any time of year, the spirit of this wonderful philosophy supports me in my darkness and my joy.
God bless us every one…? You bet.
You’ll excuse me now while I crank up some Burl Ives and dance in my pajamas.