Let’s say, for myself, at least, that 2010 was not a red-letter year and we will leave it at that. 2011 hasn’t been so great yet either but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. I’m not here to list all the crappo things that 2010 brought me because I’m trying very hard to accentuate the positive. No, I’m thinking of something a little stranger.
What I’ve really been thinking about is my most recent viewing of A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart. This and the George C. Scott versions are my favorite. I’ve seen these films many times. Last year, I spent the annual showing on TNT by gluing one of my ceramic nativity magi back together after Sullivan, our large silver mitt ferret, scaled the Christmas tree and pushed the poor wise man right off the mantle, effectively shattering his…well, his mantle. And his feet.
As an English major, my undergraduate junior seminar class was Dickens and Elliot (TEAM DICKENS!) and we kicked off with a reading of A Christmas Carol. The year I taught high school I read aloud from the story to my classes. I’m no stranger to Mr. Dickens’ work.
Yet, somehow this year was different. I love Stewart’s portrayal of Scrooge because he’s the perfect balance of steadfast chill and stiffness, but you are not surprised to learn of the wounded soul beneath. Here I was, after a supremely disappointing year, sitting in my jammies in the semi-darkness of the twinkling Christmas tree in my living room. This year I watched, really watched, when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, sweaty and desperate from his nighttime spectral perambulations. The desperation gives way to relief as he laughs (or re-learns to laugh), realizes it’s not too late, and swoops to the window to throw up the sash and inquire about the goose from a passerboy. His joy with a befuddled Bob Cratchit.
It was this moment that my heart might have grown two sizes that day for it dawned on me that like Scrooge, we can all change. Things can be different tomorrow. Scrooge didn’t make a Plan to Be Different. He didn’t wonder what people would think of him. Can you imagine him saying, “I’ve been a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon for eons. No point changing now, what will people say? I”ve been like this so long.” It seems so simple as I write this but it was like discovering that one can fly after years of crawling.
So Scrooge goes out into the world that frosty morning a new person. He doesn’t falter one whit at the surprised looks his neighbors give him. The boys pelting him with snowballs are cause for more new laughter and a return pitch of his own. Here is a man who is, by all accounts, old. Past the prime of his life. And yet he makes a drastic change after a night of dreaming. So should we all be so malleable!
Mind you, I didn’t fling open my patio door and send a huge turkey to Thug Life with a merry Christmas and God save you. But I have held on to this idea of changing whenever. I don’t need a special day, like New Year’s Day, and I don’t have to explain my change to anybody. I can just DO the change. Also, it’s not just a matter of doing, it’s a matter of attitude. Nay, it’s a matter of being open to being different than you were yesterday.
Taking a further page of Scrooge’s ledgerbook, he remains as good a man, as good a master, as good a friend as the old city knew. Inspiring, I say, to change and stay changed. We all start with the best of intentions and then it trickles away until we have no change left, just the we that used to be.
No New Years Resolutions for me, after all this, but rather an effort to be open to the good changes of tomorrow and the ability to turn a blind eye to the confused looks from someone who sees a new person in me.