I found Christmas over in Port Perry last Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t alone. And, no, there wasn’t a sudden conversion in my life. But I was in a church. A few minutes after 3 p.m., last Sunday, I was invited to a lectern to initiate a fundraiser with these words:
“Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that. … Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”
A number of Christmases ago, my father Alex called me. He was worried about something. I asked him what was wrong. He said he was facing a dilemma. He had just written a Christmas song and wanted one of our two daughters to record it. Since both were good singers, he didn’t know which to choose.
“Dad, I don’t see a problem,” I said. “They both sing. Why not ask them to record it together? They can sing it in harmony.”
Well, it was one of those times in my life when instinct proved to be bang on. My father approached both our daughters – Quenby, the teacher, and Whitney, the actor/singer – and they agreed to work on it together.
I’ve been thinking about a mythical, historical Christmas dinner lately. It’s the one that featured a cooked goose, hissing gravy, mashed potatoes, the gush of stuffing, two small children gorged in sage and onion to the eyebrows, and a pudding regarded as the greatest success achieved by the housewife since the beginning of her marriage. But it’s the Christmas toast proposed by the man of the house, I’ve remembered this week.
“I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge,” announced Bob Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “the founder of the feast.”
“Such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge,” Mrs. Cratchit scowls. And then she relents at her husband’s insistence, “I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s.”
It’s been hard this year. Teaching and marking at the college – with a particularly challenging crop of journalism and broadcasting students – have nearly swamped me. Close friends have battled health problems, so I’ve spent what little time I had left trying to help. On top of that, I’ve found myself shouting at the radio in anger because the “the holiday season is here” advertisements began right after Halloween – they didn’t even wait for Remembrance Day to pass. Finding the Christmas spirit, this year, has proved tougher than usual.
I expect all that to change this Sunday, however, when I go to church.