The year was 1991. Bob and I spent the Fall at home with our preemie twin babies, exhausted, broke and exhilarated as we learned the job of being new parents.
I’ve always loved so much A Christmas Carol, from Dickens’ stylized language to the redemption story, quirky ghosts, and all the Christmasy details. Our famous Guthrie Theater puts on a wonderful production of it every holiday season, and there was no way our tight budget would allow anything like that. But I yearned to see it, needed something bright like that to help my tired spirit appreciate the holidays.
I found out that a local independent bookstore (Baxter Books, which has since closed) was having a writing contest to give away tickets to the Guthrie production. They wanted Christmas-oriented submissions — I don’t remember much more than that. I wanted to win tickets so bad that I wrote my heart out, coming up with my own short version of A Christmas Carol. I don’t remember how many winners there were, but Reader, I was one of them. It was so exciting to win something from my writing, and to get to see the performance I wanted so much to see.
I dug into my old files and found it. Here it is, a blast from the past, from 27 year old me. I hope you enjoy it, and may there be wonder and contentment for you this Winter.
MY CHRISTMAS CAROL
And so it happened I was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: I was jolted from sleep by the blare of something Christmasy from the clock radio near my head. Fumbling for the off button – sure the sound would wake our twin babies in the room next door — I rolled over to see the little red numbers 12:00. Midnight? I hadn’t set the alarm. Groaning, I turned to my husband and cocked my ear to the baby monitor on our headboard. The only sound that broke the silence of the night was Bob’s soft snores. And then the whirring of the wind…
Memories of the dreams came back to me, sifting down on my consciousness like a fine Christmas snow. I just finished reading A Christmas Carol the day before, as I do every year, to put myself in a Christmas spirit. This year I’d had to skim, holding a book in one hand and feeding a baby with the other, rocking the other baby’s chair with my foot. Was it so surprising then to dream I’ve been visited by ghosts, like Scrooge?
Elusive as dreams sometimes are, I could remember only fragments. I say I dreamed of “ghosts”, but I recalled no forms or figures, only sensations.
The Ghost of Christmas Past had eked of impishness and friendliness, and waved before me a blur of joy-filled, toy-filled Christmases of my childhood, the lonely grown-up Yuletide of a broken relationship, happier holidays with Bob.
The Ghost of Christmas present, warm and motherly, showed a scene that stuck clearly in memory, a Christmas so familiar because it was my life now… our home, cluttered with swings and playpens and baby chairs, baby bottles waiting to be washed, few holiday decorations and only the humblest of gifts. With all the work of being new parents of twins, we hadn’t the time or money or energy this year. Tiredness hung heavy and the air around the young couple in my dream – my husband and me – who tended the dark-haired baby boy and girl. And from the woman, the tiniest inkling of despair dripped like a leaky faucet. It was there all right, a feeling of being lost and tired and overwhelmed by the work two babies demanded, a sadness that Christmas would be skimmed, and squeezed between feedings.
Sitting up in bed, I listen to The whirring of the wind. Cool, but not cold, breezes flowed over my face and hair, seeming to blow in from a closed bedroom window. In the darkness, near that same window, a shadow stirred, grew lighter and approached. Terror gripped my heart like an icy claw. I stared at the solemn figure, draped and hooded, its face a mystery. My god — it was no different than Scrooge’s phantom, a servant of doom. Loath to welcome it, I cringed as it drew near. If this was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, would I, like Scrooge, see gloomy foreshadows?
Before my terror could escalate, the phantom raised its hands and drew back the dark hood. And here’s where my vision differed from Scrooge’s — I could see its face, and it was kind. A woman’s face, similar to my own yet different. Strangely, after a moment, I saw in her face a host of other faces, similar yet different, as I stared into the faces of generations yet to come. She smiled at me and held out her hand. Climbing out of bed, I stood next to the spirit and hugged my red flannel nighie around me.
“So you’re the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?”
“Then this must be a dream, like the others,” I said, wondering what I’d eaten before bedtime to give me such visions. I blushed when the similarity struck me, the words ringing through my head: “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato…”
She shrugged, then lifted her arm and enveloped me in the long folds of her robe. It seemed but an instant before she uncovered me. We were no longer in the shadowy bedroom, but in the living room, and although we had actually traveled but a few feet, I sensed our journey had not been so short.
The room was familiar, yet different — a few new pieces of furniture and wall hangings; the old wallpaper gone, replaced by warm paint; the old carpet torn up to reveal shining hardwood — all the changes we’d wanted to make when we first moved into this house.
It was Christmas, of course, evident from the beautiful pine in the corner, ornamented, tinseled and guarding a tempting pile of presents. The house looked Christmas with mistletoe, stockings, ceramics Santas and angels and such; it smelled Christmas with the pine, apple cider, gingerbread and peppermint; it sounded Christmas with carols on the CD player, bells and children’s laughter. Children? I turned to see two little ones run into the room, all of four or five, a dark-haired boy and girl. My heart skipped when I realized they were my little Leo and Genevieve, so big now and ripe with Christmas joy. I clapped my hands and glanced back at the spirit, who nodded at me to look on.
Into the room next came Bob, on his hands and knees, growling and chasing the kids. He look nearly the same, as dear as ever, with perhaps a few tiny new lines near his eyes, something only a wife would notice. His face was filled with fun as the kids squealed.
“Who wants Christmas cookies?” I heard a voice call from the kitchen — all-too-familiar because it was my own. After choruses of “I do! I do!,” in walked the woman bearing a tray. “Bob will you get the cider?” she asked.
I held my breath and stared at myself. I too looked much the same with a few tiny new lines. My hair was different and there seemed to be a dollop more confidence in the face of this woman than I am used to seeing in the mirror. Looking down, most surprising of all, was the belly — apple-round in that beautiful stage right before the uncomfortableness of full pregnancy.
She set the tray on the coffee table and settled onto the couch while the twins pounced on the cookie plate. As Bob returned with the cider pitcher and sat down beside her, I noticed the feeling in this room. A deep joy, a whisper of excitement, and a lack of tiredness and despair. I sensed a comfortableness in the routines, and in the fact that the routines would soon be changing to enfold yet another little one.
The woman sipped her cider mug and caught her husband’s eyes. He smiled and stretched an arm around her shoulders. “Remember our first Christmas with the twins?” he asked.
“Mmm-hmmm. We were so tired and broke. I remember feeling sad that Christmas just seemed to pass Us by.”
“But look at us now,” he said warmly, nodding to the kids.
“Yes.” Her eyes beamed back.
I felt a cool grasp on my wrist. I turned to the spirit, who looked at me expectantly.
“Thank you,” I said, for in watching this joyful scene, joy had pouring into my heart while the despair trickled out. I had seen my future fortune and felt doubly rich now.
The spirit allowed me one last glance at the warm scene, then beckoned, enfolding me in her robe. Before I could take in a single breath I was back in my bed, sitting up and staring at the window. The house was silent, the wind gone. In the bed beside me Bob stirred. With a puzzled look, he regarded me through slitted eyes.
“What’s the matter?”
“I just had the best dream,” I told him.
“Oh,” he mumbled, obviously fighting sleep. “Merry Christmas.” He leaned over to kiss me, then fell back on the pillow, drifting off.
“Merry Christmas,” I smiled. Then rolling out of bed, I went to check on the babies.
And, as Tiny Tim sweetly said, God bless us, every one!