I’m not sure how a Charles Dickens fan got this far in life without reading The Cricket on the Hearth, one of his collection of Christmas novellas. Our library’s Classics Book Club read it for our December selection.
Starring in the story is the good luck cricket who sings on the hearth with Dickens carrying his theme to chapter divisions called “Chirps.” If you pay attention, the cricket’s “good luck” rests in gentle reminders to those in the household of the good things in their lives and of the need to look beyond appearances to a more positive conclusion. In Dickens’ day, the book and the stage play it inspired were even more popular than A Christmas Carol.
Hidden in the fun little Victorian tale with its happily-ever-after ending is the story of The Blind Girl, who is deceived by her father Caleb in his description of their home as being comfortable with nice furnishings instead of the actual hovel that it is. The impetus for this deception is his own Cricket on the Hearth who inspired him to turn the girl’s deprivation into a blessing.
As I read about The Blind Girl, I recalled children’s author Carmen Agra Deedy in her delightful telling of her own story at last year’s Children’s Book Festival. Her account of her family’s life after coming to the United States as refugees from the Cuban Revolution was by turns touching, heart-warming, and funny. I wrote down a quote from her father that helped them deal with the difficulties they faced. “What the eye don’t see, the heart don’t grieve over.” He and Caleb saw life through the same lens. Perhaps her father brought his own cricket from Cuba.
Since this is Dickens, there is a finely woven moral with those in modest circumstances happily enjoying their friends and family, blessed with the accompaniment of the chirping cricket on the hearth. Of course, the stern money-grubbing toy merchant Tackleton makes his Scrooge-like change at the end with the cricket chirping merrily on the hearth.
As you can see, I tried to create an origami cricket for my hearth. I knew it would never chirp, but I liked the idea until I realized how inept I was at folding paper! But my imagination is alive and well, and I hear him singing his song of joy. I hope this season finds a cricket on your hearth, real or imagined, whose cheerful song of blessing reminders drowns out any longings for the unattainable.