When I was young, we would go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. While we were waiting for midnight to roll around, A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sim would be on and we would watch it until it was time to go to mass. That version is, of course, a classic in its own right, but I think my very favorite version when I was younger was Rich Little's A Christmas Carol. It was on HBO nonstop in December. And I watched it nonstop. Little played nearly every character in the story as a different actor: W.C. Fields as Scrooge, Paul Lynde as Bob Cratchit, Peter Sellers as the Ghost of Christmas Future - you get the idea. It was delightful. I haven't seen it since I was young, but I would love to sit and watch it again.
Which brings me to the fact that I recently read an excellent book entitled What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. The title character hits her head and wakes up thinking she is thirty years old, happily married, and about to become a mother. The problem is she's forty, about to be divorced, and the mother of three children she can't remember. It hit me about a week after finishing it that this story reminded me of A Christmas Carol. The present day Alice with amnesia is seeing what she thinks of as her future, but she is in fact stuck in her past because of her memory loss. I loved the way this book explored how people change so gradually, they can wake up one day and not even recognize who they have become. It's a great read that I highly recommend.
But back to A Christmas Carol. Two things about this story come to mind for me during every Christmas season. One is this:
This is probably what a lot of people take away from this story and certainly what I took away from it when I was younger. Goodwill should be year round, not just honored at Christmas. A great moral to the story and one we all need to remember.
But as a I grow older, this one comes to mind more and more:
We all have a chain we carry around with us. Am I feeling tired? Sometimes it's because I've been dragging a chain of grudges around all day. I get better about letting things go as I get older, but it's still so hard not to keep adding to my chain as I drop other links of it. It's a daily challenge for me to refrain from lengthening my chain with the annoyances and conflicts of day to day life. It will never get lighter if I let some things go but constantly replace them with new links. There are five important words in this quote I need to remember, "of my own free will". I decide what I link on that chain but also what I can take off. Links can always be taken disconnected and left behind.
The image of the chain Marley carries is one of the things I love about this story. It makes a bad habit into a very concrete, unappealing image. When I think of these grudges as literal links of a chain, it shifts my thinking about it. It reminds me to drop some of those links, but it also helps me pause and reflect before I add another link of my own free will.