My Christmas Carol

Last night, as I was driving out to meet up with friends under the light of a spectacular full moon, I was taken with an idea. It felt like a story but in truth? I haven’t yet been able to figure out the full extent of what’s involved. Might have been the drinks and good conversation, something which has been… not neccesarily lacking in my life recently but definitely not as prevelant as it’s been in the past. Something about new beginnings. That’s the thing about writing. Believe it or not? An idea doesn’t happen all at once unless you are very, very lucky. It usually takes time to develop, and then more time to revise, and still more time to complete… you get the picture. So I’m going to let this one stew for a bit. All I can tell you now is that it’s there. It’s there, and we’ll see where it goes.

But then, driving back, I was taken with another idea and that one has stuck with me since. That’s why I’m sitting here in my sunroom, typing this presently. It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that when it comes to Christmas movies, there are a few that have been and always will be personal favorites. “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Die Hard” and others have taken on an almost mythical quality in my life over my last 43 plus years on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existance. But nothing… no Christmas story has ever resonated as strongly with me as “A Christmas Carol.” You may know it as “Scrooge,” or “Scrooged…” it has taken many forms over the years. For me? The best adaption is the 1951 one starring Alastair Sim. It’s easily the truest to Dickens’ original story and Sim’s portrayal of miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge is hands down the best one ever.

The fact that “A Christmas Carol” has been redone in so many ways, shapes and forms over the years (Muppets? Really?) makes it pretty clear that any sort of new adaption of it will be… well? Not new. Maybe robots would work but I write enough about robots. I’ll save them for the pages of The Endworld Series and… other, still-to-be written ideas which I will not get into now. But one particular aspect of “A Christmas Carol” stands out to me: The concept of ghosts. Specifically, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. You see, the idea of time past, time present and time still to come has been a constant theme in my life lately. Introspection has been a big way in which I fill the silence 50 or so percent of the time these days. Where have I been? Where am I now? And where the f*ck am I going? I believe that the key to moving forward is to use the first two questions to extrapolate the answer to the third. Whether you agree with that approach or not is your perogative. For now, it’s mine. Letting life come to me is only part of the process.

So that’s where I am this afternoon. That’s why I’m writing this piece of Mental Flatulence right now. This weekend, I was visited by two of Dickens’ three ghosts. Now before you go and reserve me a room at the nuthouse understand that I do not believe in ghosts. At least not ghosts of the Casper variety. The idea of wispy, white and occassionally sheet wearing dead people hanging out in my living room… well? It scares me a bit. And I dig a good ghost story or horror movie. But I feel like if ghosts do exist, then they do not exist in the form that pop culture has portayed them in for millenia. Maybe it’s a dimensional thing, like in that Doctor Who episode, “Army of Ghosts” where the “ghosts,” it turned out, were nothing more than the Cyberman, crossing the dimensional plane to interact with people on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence in the interest of eventually invading and conquering them. Spoiler alert: They failed. But the Doctor’s companion and burdgeoing love interest Rose Tyler got locked away in an alternate dimension and… well? I may or may not have cried at the end, but that is neither here nor there. I digress. Back on task, Frank. Back on task.

That’s one interpretation of ghosts that I’m inclined to entertain. If anything it makes for good fiction. But another and, for me, more reasonable and realistic explanation is that a ghost is nothing more or less than an idea. A concept. A reminder of a person that once existed or a state of life that once prevailed. So this weekend? Yes, friends. I was visited by two. Past and Present. The Ghost of Christmas Past actually showed up after the Ghost of Christmas Present but for the purposes of structure and staying true to Dickens’ original concept, I’ll start with the Past.

I mentioned earlier that I went out last night to hang out with friends. What I didn’t mention was that two of the three friends were people that I hadn’t seen in decades. A lot has happened to me over the last handful of years. Some would argue (and have) that it caused me to lose a part of myself. Via introspection–that thing that I do a lot these days and probably shouldn’t–I’m inclined at this point to agree with them. But spending time with the people I spent time with last night? I was reminded of who I once was. By recounting what once was, I remembered for the first time in a long time how it felt to be young, not 43 years old and divorced. How many of you reading this know I used to act and sing in plays and musicals? Probably a bunch of you. Bad example. How many of you know that pre-that, I was in speech and debate, otherwise known as Forensics? Maybe a few less. Another piss poor example. STOP. Okay. But the point here is that rarely over the last handful of years did I even consider those days as I was going about the daily grind of my existence. Who I was was a married father of two, working a job that I hated, all the while trying desperately to stoke a fledgling career as a professional writer between loads of laundry and birthday parties. Writing sporadically was as close as I got to the artist, i.e. the art-eest that I once was. In short? I pushed that part of me aside so as to focus on my obligations. And meeting with the Ghost or Ghosts of Christmas Past brought that back full center. Am I inclined to forsake responsibility and embrace the life of a starving artist again? Hell no. But is there a way to be both? An artist with a relatively full belly, perhaps? Hmm. My thanks go out to the people that I spent time with last night for reminding me of who I once was. In the past. And I’m really excited for the opportunity to get together again soon. To paraphrase Ali G? Booyakasha. Respect.

Which brings me to the Ghost of Christmas Present, whom visited me on Friday night as I ventured out to CVStress Swarthmore for wrapping supplies and stocking stuffers. It should be noted herein that I do not believe in shopping at big box retailers after roughly December 15th of every year. I spent 13 years working in retail at Christmastime and have made it a point to avoid it as much as I can since leaving it behind me in 2005. I could have saved money had I gone to Target but it was worth it, if only to get in and out unscathed. Anywhos, no sooner had I walked in the door than I saw my former work colleague of two years. We talked briefly… she was on her way out and I was on my way in but in a short space of time, we talked about life, work (her new job and mine), and compared our respective states of mind now to where they were a few, mere months ago. In short? We’re both better… much better than we were while slaving away at our previous employer. Not that our lives Monday through Friday are less busy. If anything, they’re busier than they were. But being someplace where we feel respected and needed is a step up from being someplace where we felt expendable despite consistently overperforming and succeeding. To her, let me repeat Ali G’s litany. Booyakasha. Respect. Whereas the Ghost or Ghosts of Christmas Past reminded me of who I was many, many years ago the Ghost of Christmas Present reminded me of where I am now, and how much better off I am than I was a few weeks ago. Let’s be honest, here: My life is not perfect. Far from it. I’m re-learning how to support myself with the extra added variable of supporting two little ladies. I’m lonely some of the time, and introspection/finding things to fill the void only gets me so far. But I’m learning that these… aspects? These things are normal for someone in my position. There will be days but if the good ones outnumber the bad? I guess I’m doing an okay job.

So there you have it. Christmas Past and Christmas Present. Both have visited me over the last couple of days. See? No need to reserve me a padded room at the asylum. If you believe in structure, it stands to reason that I’m due a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future either tonight or tomorrow night, otherwise known as Christmas Eve Eve and Christmas Eve. If so? Two words: Bring it. Or am I? I spoke earlier about another ghastly definition of the term “ghost” and that’s where I’m going with this, friends, and occasionally constant readers. Maybe Christmas Future is not a thing. Not a white fog clad wraith or a metal man from another dimension. Maybe it’s not even a person that once was or a state of existence that will be. Maybe… Just maybe Christmas Future is nothing more than a synthesis of what I learned from the Past and the Present. The child of the two, so to speak Over the course of three days, in between watching the Eagles, wrapping presents and doing laundry (among other things), I was reminded of who I once was, and who I am now was reinforced. Maybe Christmas Future is simply a matter of brokering those two understandings and determining who I want to be moving forward, within the confines of my obligations and the requirements of my life as a single dad, supporting and hopefully growing a new home for me and my little ladies. Is it possible for me to be an art-eest while continuing to foster a life of security and stability, i.e. in between working full time, cleaning my house, doing laundry and attending birthday parties if needed? Well sh*t, guys and gals. It has to be. There really isn’t an alternative for me at this juncture. I’m not going to allow it. And whether that allows room for a companion sometime down the line? My own Rose Tyler? Well, I’m going to leave that where I left my burdgeoning story idea from last night. In the Stew Zone. Because now is not the time. Still, I wouldn’t be carrying the mantle of the romantic idealist if I didn’t mention it, right?

So? So. If the Ghost of Christmas Future does want to swing by for a Powerade Zero and some dill chicken? Come on by. We’ll watch the Chiefs hopefully beat Seattle and allow the Eagles to slip into the second Wild Card spot. And we’ll talk a bit about balance and how to resolve time past and time present into… You guessed it. Time future. Because in the end, that’s the moral of my Christmas Carol. Not learning from a bunch of spooks how not to be a Scrooge and Keep Christmas Well. But learning how to live the best future that I can: A synthesis of the boy I once was and the man I am today.

And that? That’s it. Thanks for reading. As I prepare to close out this piece of Mental Flatulence and go make dinner, I am reminded of my drive out to meet up with friends last night under that spectacular full moon. I texted my buddy beforehand that it would be “good for my soul.” And it was. On a number of fronts. And as for that story that I mentioned? It’ll arrive soon enough. Spoiler alert: It starts with a full moon rise. It’s about new beginnings.

And there are no robots.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, friends. If I don’t speak with you beforehand, have a terrific holiday. And as Tiny Tim once said: God bless us. Everyone.

F.

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