Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Christmas Carol, part I

The Ghost of Christmas Past...
"'Ding, dong!'

'The hour itself,' said Scrooge triumphantly, 'and nothing else!'

He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did
with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow"
...enter, the Ghost of Christmas Past!
This is exactly how my interview started with Roesannadanna!
Roseannadanna: "So Mr. Feder, you been writing ta me for a long, long time! And now we're doin' this interview..."
TN: "I'm not Mr. Feder! I have never written to you! What are you doing in my bedroom?"
RD: "I'm doin' an interview - Boy, Mr. Feder, you sure do ask a lot of stupid questions for a guy from Minnesota!"
TN: "I'm not Mr. Feder - my name is Terry."
Roseannadanna wrinkles her nose, squinting, looks straight into my face, wreaking of garlic. Looking at her notes she realizes she has the wrong scrip!
RD: "I don't know what the heck is goin' on - I was supposed to visit Feder and George Baily - you're not even on my list! Okay Mr. Nelson, let's step back in time. Remember the Christmas you were on the toilet and you were singing "Here Comes Santa Clause" and your mom and dad were listening and you could hear them laughing and then you stopped singing because you were embarrassed. I mean pooping and singing - yuck! What are ya tryin' to do? Make me sick?"
TN: "Yeah, that's right, I was about 3 or 4 years old and I had a toy in my hand, thinking about Santa, singing my favorite Christmas song. I heard my parents say something, laughing - I thought my mom and dad were laughing at me. From that day on I never liked singing and never would sing in front of people ever again."
RD: "You cried too - but you wouldn't make a sound or come out because you never wanted people to see you cry. And then you pretended it wasn't you doin' the singin'. Whatz wrong with you?"
TN: "What's wrong with you? What is with that hair anyway?"
RD: Ignoring my remark, "So you liked that movie then, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"?
I was transported to Downtown St. Paul late one snowy Christmas Eve afternoon, going to the theater with my sister Beth and my brother Skip. Beth wanted to see "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" with Jane Russell and Marylin Monroe. We were the only people in the theater. None of us were happy, Skip was mean to me, but I can't remember how, Beth wasn't happy about babysitting. We left the film and it was cold and dark, still snowy...
RD: "Why did you go to the corner bar after you kids got off the bus near your house?"
TN: "We had to meet my mom and dad there. Then we went home to see if Santa came. We went upstairs with my mom and we heard someone in the living room and I could hear packages rustling! I was so excited and my mother peeked around the door, holding me back with Beth grasping my shoulders. I was shaking with excitement as mom whispered it was Santa putting our presents under the tree. she described everything so vividly - years later, I was convinced that I had actually seen him myself.
Gently pushing me back, I heard the outside door close and my mother finally let me tear into the room - the tree was all lighted with the presents under the tree and I even saw the wet spots on the floor from the melted snow! Santa had been to our house! I was ecstatic - it made the sadness of the movie and the bar disappear! And my mom and dad had their cocktails until it was time for midnight Mass, when they headed back to the corner bar."
RD: "Ahwwwwww! That's so sweet! See! You had nice Christmasses when you were little!"
"The Spirit gazed upon Scrooge mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man's sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten.

'Your lip is trembling,' said the Ghost. 'And what is that upon your cheek?'

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where she would.

'You recollect the way?' inquired the Spirit.

'Remember it!' he cried with fervour; ' I could walk it blindfold.'

'Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!' observed the Ghost. 'Let us go on.' "
Suddenly we were in a bar, it was Christmas Eve...I was drinking with friends from work, it was crowded. I was supposed to be at my parent's house, my little brother Tim hadn't seen me all year, Skip and his wife were going to be there, they hadn't seen me for an even longer time. They were hoping I'd be there to save them from being alone with my parents, who would be drinking heavily. They were waiting for me to get there so we could open presents...
RD: "Whaaa - ya were drunk too! Just like the family! It's disgustin' - ya pig! Whatya tryin' to do? Make me sick?"
TN: "I was only 20 years old - I was just doing what I saw growing up. I thought Christmass meant drinking and partying!"
I witnessed how a year or so later, I came to repentance and returned to the Catholic faith...while the Spirit showed me how my little brother, growing up with alcohol problems and depression, would continue to have difficulties with Christmas as well. And then she showed me my brother Skip, dying of alcohol related illness, alone, with blood coming out of his pores, his stomach bloated, his skin all jaundiced, not living long enough to see his last Christmas on earth...
"'Spirit!' said Scrooge in a broken voice, 'remove me from this place.'

'I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,' said the Ghost. 'That they are what they are, do not blame me!'

'Remove me!' Scrooge exclaimed, 'I cannot bear it!'

He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

'Leave me! Take me back! Haunt me no longer!'"
- A Christmas Carol, The Ghost of Christmas Past - Dickens
It seemed I awakened suddenly, and Roseannadanna was featured on an ad for the best of SNL...I didn't know if I had been dreaming or I had truly seen her ghost. I turned off the television and tried to go back to sleep...wondering if I might have kept Christmas better in the past...I finally fell asleep, wrestling with that thought, imagining more faces than those that had been shown me.


  1. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Terry: This post is very moving. There is a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in my family so I get where you are coming from.

    Cats are a lot easier to deal with, sometimes, then the human family aren't they?

  2. I never laughed & cried at the same time before...

  3. Anonymous2:53 PM

    Wonderful. Terryesque through and through. I loved it.

  4. Anonymous4:04 PM

    Don't you dare delete this one!

    There were alcohol problems in my family also, but subtler, because the person tried to hide it; maybe it was just as devastating to the children in its way.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.