Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shm Shm Shmashmius and Roast Beef

For every year of forever, my family has watched the same four Christmas movies: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Walton's Homecoming, and A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott.) As a child I loved Miracle and Wonderful Life, tolerated the Waltons, and despised the Carol.

To me, A Christmas Carol was the grown-up movie that even Tiny Tim could not redeem. It had no Santa, no toys, no pretty dresses to admire. Fewer laughs. I hated Scrooge and didn't give a haypenny whether or not he bah-humbugged his way to the grave. Yes, yes, Bob Cratchit is coming; now can you just double his salary so I can watch Donald Duck bombard his nephews from a glacial fortress? Even until last Christmas I didn't much care for the story. It was nice, but I'd rather watch Chevy Chase.

Then our friends Phil and Karen invited us over to read A Christmas Carol aloud one evening, as in, pass around a BOOK and READ words and LISTEN to other people when they read. How novel. (Get it? Get it? Novel? Like the book and the new thing? I'M SO FUNNY!) So we went to Phil and Karen's to read. Mind you, we were told through the faulty phone chain that we were going to read Twas the Night Before Christmas, which I don't mind telling you is a slightly lighter tome than Dickens' classic work. Thus, my face only minimally betrayed my surprise when Karen announced at 7:00 that we had better start the book soon or else we might not be able to finish it.

With cookies on the table and tea in hand, we settled in for a long winter's read-along. Phil, the patriarch of the occasion because Dr. Fil in no way qualifies as an authority figure, started us with, "Marley was dead, to begin with," and we were off. Karen and I knitted scarves while Jonny perfected his elderly British woman voice. We each read a few pages and then passed the book along, and, magically, each person read the perfect part. Dr. Fil, one of the theologians, read the chapter that talks of ghosts roaming the earth, wailing for the good deeds they failed to do while they were alive. Karen read about Mrs. Cratchit and her brood of young-uns. Our friend James, who is such a character among characters that I cannot give space to describe him except to tell you that we call him "King James," broke into bubbling laughter and joyous knee slaps when he took on the part of Old Fezziwig. In such company, both contemporary and aged, we passed three hours before we even knew it.

The story is now one of my favorites, so I was thrilled to pass on the tradition to another group of our friends this past Christmas. Dickens' prose is full of the humor (or should I say humour?) and depth that the movies fail to capture. I laugh aloud when I read it, and when it's done I want to round up the destitute for a dinner party. Our annual read-along is the event of choice on a cold, yuletide night. Next year, I invite you to join us with your own tattered copy.

No comments: