Charles Dickens knew how to choose just the right words and arrange them in just the right order. As a humble fan of his, who by comparison, can scarcely do the English language justice, I offer him my appreciation. His words continue to transform my spirits each holiday season.
Every year, save a few, for over two decades, I’ve seen South Coast Repertory’s production and adaptation of Dickens’ classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Tonight, I will again be awash in gratitude to be among the audience with my husband, kids and my parents – three generations.
During the show, a part of me becomes lost – utterly lost, in Victorian London with Scrooge, the Cratchits, and the visiting ghosts.
The other part is like a child waiting for her serving of cake, sitting wide-eyed and opened hearted, anticipating the sweetness of my favorite lines to be served. It is when I hear these words, some taken verbatim from the original text of the book, that I know Christmas has indeed arrived.
If one ever needed a reminder of what Christmas is about, the exchange between Scrooge and his nephew, Fred, sums it up perfectly. Fred explains to his uncle:
“I have always thought of Christmas time…as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on their journeys.”
Another favorite of mine is when Scrooge is transported back by the ghost of Christmas Past to Mr. Fezziwig’s, where he has an epiphany:
“He [Mr. Fezziwig] has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. His power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
When Fred is asked by his wife how he can stand to invite Uncle Scrooge to Christmas dinner year after year, when his uncle just calls Christmas a humbug and refuses the invitation, Fred tells her:
“His offenses carry their own punishment and I have nothing to say against him”
I have used this line countless times to diffuse my own hurt at another’s actions. And to help my kids let go of incidences of playground politics or middle school drama.
Marley, Scrooge’s business partner, comes to warn Scrooge he will be visited by three phantoms. Scrooge asks why he is covered in burdensome chains:
“I wear the chain I forged in life….I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
How many of us are still laboring on our own chains that drag us down? In what ways do we imprison ourselves?
On the stage, just as in the pages of the book, Scrooge transforms from a bitter, miserly man, to a happy, loving and generous soul. As he does, I am also transformed. I feel the words wash over my being, fill my spirit and strengthen my resolve to be a better person, neighbor, wife, and mother. I too heed the lessons which open Scrooge’s heart again. A warm rush of tears pool in my eyes, and I laugh heartily too.
Dickens puts it this way: “While there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
Oh, the glorious power of words.
At the end of “A Christmas Carol,” we learn this about Scrooge: “His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.”
Charles Dickens heightens my holiday experience each year. His words are a gift that make my own heart laugh, and that is quite enough for me.