Our family has a Christmas tradition. I felt I had to impose it the year after we watched Highlander on Christmas Eve and there was talk of making it an annual tradition. Highlander our Christmas movie? Over my dead body. Obviously it was a situation headed out of control, so I stepped in a did what moms are supposed to do: took control.
I’m happy to say now our Christmas family movie is Scrooge, the musical starring Albert Finney. My family has come to terms with this tradition (although every year, someone fondly recalls the Christmas we watched Highlander). I think they’re even beginning to look forward to Scrooge. I heard S² humming “Thank you very much” yesterday.
Scrooge has always had a special place in my heart, the Grinch, too. As I lay in bed a few nights ago, pondering metaphysics, God, and man I naturally began to think of those two great characters of classic literature.
Yes, they each have an experience that shatters their existence and makes them realize they can never go back to life as it used to be. But the fact that they don’t want that life back is what makes them so interesting. Unfortunately, my late night ponderings don’t stop there. I begin to wonder what happens to the Grinch and Scrooge after Christmas.
Perhaps the Grinch moves to a small Scandanavian-style chalet at the edge of Whoville. Cindy Lou Who stops by for a visit. She and Max romp around filling the air with giggles and whatever noise dogs make when they’re having fun. The Grinch’s big baby blue eyes crinkle as he smiles. The next day after Cindy Lou has been there for an hour, the Grinch finds himself on the front porch with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming. By the end of the month, he is hiding under his bed, leaving Cindy Lou and the other little Whos pounding mercilessly on his front door. His wide blue eyes are getting squintier and squintier. But the Grinch doesn’t want to go back to his old ways.
As for Scrooge, he spends Christmas partying at his nephew’s home. The next day, unused to such frolicking, he sleeps in for the first time in decades. He drags himself from bed just in time for dinner and heads over to the Cratchit’s to check on Tiny Tim and inveigle a dinner invitation. The Cratchit’s are overjoyed to see him. At first his free and liberally shared advice are welcome, but when he tries to improve upon Mrs. Cratchit’s plum pudding things get a little tense.
Okay, I know you’re wondering where I get the chutzpah to speculate on the behavior of such beloved characters. And yet I feel qualified to such speculation because Scrooge, the Grinch and I have a lot in common. We each tend (to put it mildly) towards grinchiness but we each desire to change. This desire is precipitated by events that affected each one of us so deeply we realize we can’t continue living as we did.
The event that changed my life happened over seventeen years ago, but it has influenced my life every day since. In itself, it is about the most mundane and unmemorable thing you could imagine. We were driving in our van (on Nineteen Mile Road, two-thirds of the way between Dequindre and Ryan Road, for the Michiganders among you). Suddenly my mind was filled with a sudden blinding revelation: God. This is very difficult to write because there are absolutely no words to describe it—a feeling, an intuition, an awareness, understanding, pure unadulterated joy. Nope. None of these come close. I’m not asking you to understand or even believe me. Quite frankly, it’s not something you can experience just from reading my words (even if I could find some). What’s important here is the fact that this experience was so true and real to me that it changed my life.
I knew God was real. How cool (again, words can’t quite do it, so cool will have to do.) And I decided that I was going to change; I was going to always be good. Not because God demanded it, or because I wanted His approval, but because I loved Him and I wanted to be good for Him. And for myself. I hadn’t realized how unhappy I was until I was surprised by joy.
I floated on a cloud for a few days. But reality (the reality of myself) set in when I had to drive somewhere. I tried SO hard to be good and kind to the other drivers. But there were so many “idiots” on the road, my resolve crumbled. In fact, not only did I revert to my old self, I was worse than I usually was. What the heck was wrong with me? I did not want to behave this way.
But I learned, as I’m sure the Grinch and Scrooge would have if they were real, that a lifetime is a hard habit to break and bad is so much easier than good. But bad habits, even a lifetime of them, can be broken no matter how long it takes. For me, it’s possible with God’s help.
It would be possible for the Grinch and Scrooge, too. I think the Grinch would have moved to a secluded cabin in the woods, visiting the Who’s every week for some good times and a dinner of roast beast. Eventually, he’d begin inviting the Who’s to his cabin for a day of cross-country skiing and an evening of s’mores and cocoa in front of a blazing fire. As for Scrooge, he could have become a very successful business consultant (they weren’t called that back then) and philanthropist. Maybe he’d fall for a jolly widow and they’d live happily ever after.
As for me, I try to take one day at a time. As long as I don’t have to watch Highlander on Christmas…
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