I Plead "Not Guilty"

I am not guilty, and I have the photograph to prove it. The author of the “Afterword” in one collection of Dickens Christmas stories says that A Christmas Carol should be read annually before Christmas with girls and boys – especially boys – around. He goes on to say that boys who grow up without this experience should bring suit against their parents. My two boys are going to have to sue for something else if they expect to collect!

The writer goes on to quote Lord Francis Jeffery’s opinion that the book has done more good than all the pulpits in Christendom. While this is probably an exaggeration, I agree that one is deprived who has not heard Dickens’s story read aloud in its original version.

To this end, and even before I knew I could be sued, my three heard A Christmas Carol annually either nightly under the tree or on a long drive to visit grandparents in North Mississippi from wherever the Army had selected as home for us. If you look carefully at the picture, you can see which one did not pay attention as well as he should.

By the time our children outgrew being my captive audience, I had another one in junior high students. [This clears their parents of guilt as well.] I read it to them every year and waited for my favorite part – the reaction on their faces when they heard the Ghost of Christmas Present throwing Scrooge’s words back in his face. “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” We followed with some good discussions about the girl Want and the boy Ignorance who clung to the ghost’s robe and whether the ghost was correct in saying the boy was to be the most feared.

Video versions of A Christmas Carol crowd TV schedules this time of year, but they inevitably leave out one of my favorite parts or do a pitiful rewrite – such as having Scrooge show up at the Cratchit’s home instead of his nephew’s on Christmas Day, which also negates Dickens’ fine ending of Scrooge “catching” Bob coming in late the day after Christmas. But it’s okay, I have several copies to read – the worn Scholastic copy I read to junior high students and copies my children have given me because of their fine illustrations. I even have enough to loan one to you to keep you out of a lawsuit in case your children have been deprived.

In the hoopla of the best set of wishes during this season, I return to Tiny Tim. I’ll go out on a limb and say that his very inclusive greeting got it right long ago, and I have borrowed it as my hope for each of you and all of us for the season. Yes, it does occasionally snow in Hattiesburg during the season.