My obsession with A Christmas Carol began when I was six years old in Hardy Station, Mississippi as I watched the play rehearsals with my father Bah-Humbugging in the role of Scrooge.
In the years when our children were growing up, the book became an annual read-aloud. Often that was on the long trip from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio to North Mississippi to visit grandparents. I can say, with little expectation of disagreement, that I enjoyed this more than they did.
About the time the children grew up and could no longer serve as my victims listeners, I began to teach junior high where it became my December read-aloud. I loved watching my students’ recognition as the Ghost of Christmas Present threw Scrooge’s words in his face when he inquired whether Tiny Tim would live, responding that he “might as well die and decrease the surplus population.”
No longer do I have a captive audience of children or students, but my librarian daughter continues to feed my passion by sending me yet another and another copy of the book to go with the cheap Scholastic version I read to my students. There have been a couple of beautifully illustrated copies. I thought she had finished the possibilities last year when she sent one with Dickens’s editing drafts on the opposing pages with handwriting that had to be indecipherable even to its owner. (It was comforting to know that even Charles Dickens scribbled upgrades on his rough copies!) However, after the Marshall Library book sale this year, she sent a well-worn volume with all his Christmas books and American Notes. I’ll enjoy my annual read from it this Christmas.
I also watch the movies, three this year, none altogether satisfactory. Those that follow the book the most accurately tend to have wooden characters playing the parts. One even had the audacity to forget that Scrooge’s young love was named Belle. Inevitably, they will leave out a favorite line or two since you can’t put everything in a movie that was in the book or add a superfluous scene as though they were better than old Charles. Nevertheless, they feed my passion begun in childhood and fulfill the wish that Dickens himself put at the beginning of the volume for his readers, “May it haunt their homes pleasantly.”
Should you ask how much of A Christmas Carol is too much, I would only reply, “There is no such thing, and may God bless us every one.”