Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

How many times have you seen the classic holiday story, A Christmas Carol? Written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843, this timeless story is available in many different live action and animated versions.

Daughter Adriel and I have an annual tradition. We watch the 1984 George C. Scott adaptation together, something we’ve done since her birth the same year. Other family members join us some years. At other times, like this evening, it’s just the two of us.

You can catch thoughts from previous viewings here and also here. After watching this particular movie 34 times, is there anything left to share about this transformative journey type of story? Yes there is!

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

The 1984 film stars George C. Scott, Frank Finlay, Edward Woodward, Angela Pleasence, Roger Rees, David Warner and Susannah York. It was directed by Clive Donner and has a run time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

A Christmas Carol is the story of a miserly, hard-hearted businessman, Ebenezar Scrooge, whose life is changed as he learns about compassion from three spirits who visit one Christmas Eve.

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

Our Observations after 34 Years

We’ve seen this movie many times, and yet new insights pop up because we are different versions of ourselves each year. And some scenes continue to delight us, no matter how many times we watch them.

Here are our thoughts this year:

Pain Built a Wall

George C. Scott plays Ebenezer beautifully, capturing his intelligence, rigid yet regal bearing, and the pain he’s used over the years to build an impenetrable barrier around his heart. He holds people at arm’s length because at his core, he doesn’t trust anyone. Money making is his business and he’s very adept at acquiring wealth.

Adriel remarked that the older she gets, the more she appreciates the complexity of Scrooge’s character. “After all,” she quipped, “he isn’t entirely wrong.” That’s what I love about the character too. He possesses wisdom even when he lacks compassion. His words have the bite of truth, even if they are harsh.

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

Love Still Gets Through that Wall

I noticed something new during the scene with Fred, near the beginning of the film. Scrooge taunts his nephew about Christmas, calling it a humbug for the first time. He even gets in a poke about Fred’s wife, who did not bring financial gain to the marriage.

Scrooge spars effectively with words. However when Fred mentions that he and his wife love each other, and implies that’s more important than wealth, the fight goes out of Scrooge. His eyes shift away and he abruptly ends the conversation.

As we later see in Scrooge’s past, he loved a woman once. Speaking of, thinking of love disarms him and ushers in regret.

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

Fred is Adorable

Scrooge’s nephew Fred, played by Roger Rees, initially made us giggle during his scenes. He’s just so positive, in an almost goofy way, and extremely excitable. Playing party games at home with his guests he gushes so enthusiastically that he trips over his words.

Through the years, Fred has endeared himself to us. His curly hair threatens to overpower his slender face, however his good heart does shine forth brilliantly. He never stops believing in the power of love and acceptance and he’s confident his uncle will come around someday. We love Fred.

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

Mrs. Dilber Will Always Make Us Cackle

This earthy character, played by Liz Smith, steals the scene in which she is selling Scrooge’s bed linens in a future scenario. Her sly expressions and the way she words her sentiments makes us laugh every…single…time. We don’t even fight it any longer. We simply enjoy her few minutes in the film.

This dear woman has been a part of our Christmas celebrations for many, many years. I looked her up as I wrote this section and discovered the actress died two years ago on Christmas Eve, at the age of 95. Somehow that date seems fitting for her exit from this world into glory. Bless her.

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

The Ghost of Christmas Future

The Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, affected our viewing of A Christmas Carol tonight. The creepy ghosts lurking about in Hill House made me peer into the shadows deep within Scrooge’s old mansion. If you’ve seen Hill House, you know what I mean. Barely detectable ghosts fill the dark places behind the main action in the story. Once you see them in an episode, you noticed them everywhere.

I peered harder into the backgrounds in A Christmas Carol. Although I didn’t see additional ghosts, I noticed how spooky that old house really is.

And the Ghost of Christmas Present, who has always bothered Adriel, made us think of Bent Neck Lady in Hill House. His creepiness rose considerably with that comparison.

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

Honoring Christmas All the Year

I’m grateful for our 34th viewing of A Christmas Carol. I’m thankful as well that Adriel shares my love for this story. We look forward to our tradition each year.

Dickens’ characters and words inspire me, so much so that I had a shirt made with a quote from the movie.

MiliLou Styles created a long sleeved t shirt for me, with Scrooge’s tearful declaration toward the end of the story.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.”

His words signaled a change in his heart, which opened wide again. He became a joyful and compassionate man, the person he was always meant to be. I applaud his transformation every December.

The shirt will serve as a reminder of Scrooge’s journey. I think I’ll wear it throughout the year.

Observations After 34th Viewing of A Christmas Carol

33rd Christmas Carol

Although many of my holiday traditions have shifted over the years, one of my most cherished is also the oldest. Since childhood, I have watched a variety of films during the holiday season, depicting Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol. The George C Scott version, released as a TV movie in 1984, is my all time favorite adaptation and has been my preferred Christmas Carol for 33 years.

Daughter Adriel and son-in-law Nate hosted this year’s viewing. We were joined by Greg, Elissa and Dayan. We settled in the living room, lit by the glow of Christmas tree lights and a crackling fire in the fireplace, with cups of hot apple cider and freshly made peanut butter no bake cookies.

I never tire of watching the story of Ebenezer Scrooge unfold. A Christmas Carol is my favorite type of movie, one that has the power to impact lives through the transformative journey of the main character. As I watched the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future visit Scrooge, with the intention of changing the course of his life, I noticed a couple of things that I had not before, in spite of a lifetime of familiarity with this story.

Ebenezer connects with the boy Tiny Tim, experiencing feelings of compassion and tenderness. These are traits not evident in any other area of Scrooge’s life. It is, in fact, Tiny Tim’s uncertain future that breaks open Scrooge’s heart, which has long been barricaded from feeling anything.

I realized tonight why Scrooge first connects with this child. He identifies with him, understands him. As a boy, Ebenezer was sent away to a boarding school. His friends were imaginary characters from his beloved books. He didn’t join the adventures that his classmates had, spending time alone instead. Tiny Tim is not able to join in with the other children his age, due to his frail body and poor health. Although he has a large family, and people who love him, he is an observer of life, more than a participant, much as the boy Ebenezer was. They both live on the fringes, learning to make do. Seeing Tiny Tim allows Ebenezer to see himself again as a lonely child, more clearly and with more empathy than the memories that the ghost of Christmas past summoned.

My heart always feels very tender toward young Ebenezer Scrooge. Seeing his awakening compassion towards Bob Cratchit’s son, with fresh eyes and new insight, deepened my understanding of the hardships that shaped Ebenezer’s personality and his future.

My second new aha tonight came near the end of the movie, as the ghost of Christmas present leaves Scrooge alone in a dark part of town. Ebenezer has just had his eyes opened to the plight of the poor. His words about people going to the poor houses, or worse, dying to deplete the surplus population, suddenly seem harsh and unsettling to his own ears. In this new state of awareness, he finds himself on his own, far from home. “What have I done, to be abandoned like this?” Ebenezer asks aloud.

This scene has always bothered me, because surely the older man knows he has done many things that have caused people to dislike him. But it is not the older Scrooge who is wondering why he has been abandoned. Tonight I connected the question back to the young boy, who was alone in the boarding school. Left there by his father, who blamed Ebenezer for the death of his wife, the boy must have repeatedly asked that very same question, “What have I done, to be abandoned like this?” The question has haunted Scrooge his whole life. As a result, he closed his heart down, to protect it, and learned to take care of himself by becoming an excellent, albeit harsh, businessman.

Ebenezer teaches me that childhood experiences are powerful and vows made during those formative years shape who we become. Scrooge shows me that it is never too late to let go of those experiences and undo those vows and allow the heart to open again. His transformation at the end of the movie is my favorite part of the story. I feel Ebenezer’s joy when he realizes he has a second chance, to live with the spirit of Christmas striving in his heart and active in his life. I celebrate who he becomes.

I am grateful for another viewing of A Christmas Carol, and the impact this film has had on my life throughout the years. And I am thankful for my family. They see the value in this movie as well. I know that my mom watched A Christmas Carol tonight also, as did my son and his wife. What an incredible tradition, one that spans the years, and the generations. I look forward to many more viewings of Dickens’ beloved tale, and many more ahas.

Gifts of the Season

This afternoon I had the privilege of accompanying grandson Joey on his Christmas shopping trip. The day was overcast, chilly and dreary, however within our car there was joy and light and anticipation as we drove to Joplin.

We quickly established what our stops would be, and tossed around gift ideas for his family, calling in a little additional help from my daughter-in-law, Megan. By the time we had arrived in the first store’s parking lot, Joey had a clear game plan. From there this young man never wavered, finding each item on his mental gift list, and checking it off.

I give the kids an approximate budget, and two things amaze me as they shop. The kids are extremely fair in their purchases. They do their best to spend the same amount on each family member. This practice is the grandkids’ way of showing that they value the people in their lives and see their worth.

And, we find the items that the children have in mind, at the price they want to pay. This form of synchronicity happens over and over…getting an item on sale, finding the last such item at the exact right price. I love the delight that sparkles in their eyes as they exchange knowing looks with me. These shopping trips not only allow my grandchildren to give gifts to their loved ones, they teach them wonderful lessons about the incredible way life can flow.

Joey and I had such fun shopping and talking non-stop, that this Yaya totally failed to capture any of that part of the experience by way of photos! As we arrived at On the Border, the Mexican food restaurant that Joey selected for our meal, I lamented my lapse. Joey teased me about falling down on my one job today, and then laughed it off. He was gracious in allowing me to take extra photos in the restaurant and during our gift wrapping session.

Preparing to leave, after a delicious lunch, and I find my grandson settled in, watching football on a big screen tv.

Joey decided to actually wrap his gifts, rather than drop them into bags and stuff the tops with tissue paper. There is a knack to gift wrapping, and I let Joey experience cutting the paper to size and helped him learn to fold and tape up the ends. He did a great job. We talked about each family member as he wrapped their gifts and how surprised they would be by his selections.

These are special times, shopping with the grandkids. They enjoy selecting and giving the gifts. And they receive beyond getting a gift in return, perhaps without realizing it fully yet. They are learning the value of money, and more importantly, the value of their family members. They learn to make decisions, carry them out and adapt if necessary. There is a sense of accomplishment that each child feels over their little stack of gifts, and the delicious thrill of anticipation as they imagine the recipients opening their surprises.

There are sweet gifts to me also, watching the bright, earnest faces of my grandchildren as they make decisions and purchases. I receive the gifts of their conversations and laughter, their love and gratitude, and the joy of seeing their awareness and mindfulness grow.

It truly is the season of giving…and receiving…and I love sharing it all with these beautiful souls.

Joy Multiplied

I truly do love this time of year. From the big family Halloween party at the end of October, to the beginning of a shiny New Year, this is a season of incredible joy and special connections and marvelous fun. At the center of it all is family.

I spent the afternoon and evening with granddaughter Aubrey, on outing two of five of the annual Yaya and Grandchild Christmas shopping tradition.

I can tell my grandchildren are growing up, beyond my observations of how tall they are getting or how mature our conversations have become. Their shopping habits are changing.

As she did for her birthday shopping trip, Aubrey avoided the toy store for our Christmas outing, preferring the mall and a big box type store. She shopped wisely and with great care for her family members, not wanting to waste any time in shops that did not have what she was looking for.

She did pause to point out a cute outfit, in case I needed any gift ideas for her. However, her focus, for the most part, was on others and surprising them with thoughtful purchases.

I love these one on one excursions with each grandchild, following them as they browse, listening to their chatter and observing their gift selection process. Each child is unique and has his or her own way of making decisions.

Aubrey chose Popeye’s for dinner, hungry for their cajun chicken, mildly seasoned for her, mac & cheese and biscuits. We continued conversations we had started in the car, including one on the serious topic of bullying. I questioned her about bullying in her school, and was relieved by her answer. However, we discussed the importance of standing up for ourselves and for others who are being picked on, and that it is always okay to talk to an adult if she notices a child being treated unkindly.

After that conversation, Aubrey found a yellow wrist band on the sidewalk outside of a store, with “No bullying” written on it. She asked about the big word that describes when things connect unexpectedly, leading to a chat about synchronicities! I love the interesting flow of life, and I love Aubrey’s heart.

At my house Aubrey made quick work of wrapping her gifts, writing her own gift tags and selecting bags and tissue paper. And then it was time to take her home, after a successful and fun evening.

I thought again tonight about how magical this season is. For me there is deep gratitude, a recognition of blessings and Divine guidance, and appreciation for gifts that cannot be wrapped, only experienced and held in the heart.

I love the sights and sounds of Christmas, the crisp cold air, the warmth of home, the joy that surrounds me and overflows my heart. And, that joy is magnified and multiplied by these grandchildren who share shopping trips and stories and meals and dreams with me. This is my favorite part of the most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas Gift Making with Dayan

I finished up the Yaya and grandchild Christmas tradition today with my oldest grandson, Dayan. However, we broke the new tradition of sharing a meal and shopping for family, reverting back to a tradition that Dayan and I practiced for years when he was younger…making Christmas gifts. 


I love that my 17 year old grandson, a senior in high school, asked if instead of shopping we could be creative. Of course, I said yes! Dayan was my only grandchild for years. When he was four, he made the connection between other people having birthdays and celebrating holidays, and giving them gifts. He embraced this idea with the whole of his big little heart, discovering it was as fun to give as to receive, and I began taking him shopping to buy gifts for his family. As our family grew, it became more economical to make gifts together, rather than purchase them. 

Dayan and I have been very creative over the years, and the time spent together making gifts was precious to me. Returning to this practice, after shopping for gifts last year, felt nostalgic and right and brought joy to my heart. 


Today we took a simple idea and duplicated it to create cookie wreaths for his family members. The results were wonderful, and we were quite pleased. We played Christmas songs by Pentatonix as we worked, as we both love this a cappella group. And we had fun as we made batches of cookies, laughing and chatting. 


Our conversations today were quite different from those we had when Dayan was a little boy. This intelligent young man discussed world events with knowledge and competence, sharing with me about recent occurrences around the globe. I appreciated that I could ask him about the refugee crises in Syria and get an in depth answer that helped me to better understand what’s happening in another country. Dayan’s compassion for others and his desire to make a difference in the world were very evident as he spoke. 


I am well aware that Dayan will be headed to college next fall. Knowing he will be venturing out and embarking on his own journey soon creates deep love and pride for my grandson, and a sense that such times together, making things, is coming to an end. 

Or are they?

As if reading my mind, Dayan said he would come home from the university next Christmas, and we would make gifts together to give to family. Yes, I agreed…yes we will. My heart sang! 

Christmas Shopping with Jonathan

This afternoon I picked up grandson Jonathan for his shopping time with Yaya. We had barely gotten underway, when this sweet boy let me know he wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t want to cancel or postpone our time together. And although he didn’t feel like eating dinner, he was eager to shop for gifts for his family. We continued on to the first shopping stop. 


We had a twenty minute drive to our destination. We chatted about school and his friends. And then this high-tech young man delighted me by telling me about an app he recently downloaded, called Wattpad. This app is a place to read and share stories, for free. Wattpad’s mission is to connect a global community through the power of story. I was intrigued!

Then Jonathan wowed me. He’s already written three chapters of his own story on the app. Called Clash, Jonathan’s story is a fan fiction tale, based on the video game, Clash of Clans. As I drove, Jonathan read the three chapters to me. As a writer, I was extremely impressed with his writing style, his choice of words, and his technique. As a Yaya, I was flooded with pride and love and appreciation for Jonathan. What a goal for a young man, to write and share his story. 

Jonathan told me his class was rewarded, for an accomplishment, with an hour of free time. The children who owned cell phones were even allowed to play on those, if they wanted to. Jonathan chose to write, and edit, and move his story along. That’s a huge choice for such a techy boy, who loves his online games. 

We arrived at our first stop, and Jonathan came up with such great ideas for his family members while we were there, that this store became our only stop. In a short time, we were headed to my house so he could wrap his gift selections. 


Even though he didn’t feel like eating dinner, a cold Icee from Casey’s did sound good to him. And surprisingly, so did a bag of Cheetos. I sincerely hoped Jonathan kept those down, or he would likely never eat another Cheeto again! 


It didn’t take Jonathan long to wrap his purchases. We postponed another project, until he is feeling better. And I will take him out to dinner next week, after Christmas, to make up for no dinner tonight. I appreciate that he listened to his body, and skipped a meal when eating didn’t feel right. He followed his heart though, and completed his shopping, so excited about what he bought for his family that he’s hoping to open presents early! 

I enjoyed our time together, brief as it was, and listening as Jonathan read his creation to me. He’s planning on ten chapters. I downloaded the Wattpad app tonight and followed Jonathan. I’m a big fan of his already. 

Christmas Shopping with Aubrey

Today it was Aubrey’s turn for shopping with Yaya. My only granddaughter had been patiently waiting all week for her opportunity to share a meal together and shop for her family. Keeping an eye on developing winter weather, I picked Aubrey up a bit earlier than planned and off we went. 


For our lunch, Aubrey selected one of her favorite restaurants, Golden Corral. This little old soul loves a good buffet! All her favorites were offered this afternoon…ham, fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, and grapes. I was able to enjoy a plate of fresh raw veggies followed by a plain baked potato and steamed Brussels sprouts and carrots. No trip through the buffet is complete, for Aubrey, without visiting the chocolate fountain. She finished her meal with several marshmallows dipped in the smooth liquid chocolate. 

I love Aubrey’s heart for others. She likes to leave a personal note to our waitress, along with a generous tip 

As we left the restaurant, tiny snowflakes were falling, mixed with rain that was bordering on freezing. I don’t like to rush my grandchildren during these special outings. However, as the weather deteriorated, I knew we were going to have to shop quickly. I did not want to risk being in a car accident with Aubrey on board. We asked for Divine protection as we carefully drove to Toys R Us. 


Aubrey understood the situation, and she was up to the challenge. She did a remarkable job of selecting great gifts at two different stores, in record time. Like Oliver and Joey, she was thoughtful as she hunted for the perfect gifts, and enjoyed imagining the reactions of the recipients of her presents. As she does when she is choosing items for herself, Aubrey employs a technique we call, “does this ring my bell”, when she buys for others. She holds the object. And then passes on it or keeps it. Although she may not understand why she does this simple test, she is checking, energetically, to see if the item brings her joy, or when shopping for others, will they experience joy. I love how aware she is. 


At my house, Aubrey wrapped gifts. We had to postpone wrapping a gift for her cousin/best friend, London. And wait on doing another project. I’ll make up for the shortened time, and allow this sweet girl to finish up, one afternoon next week when the weather is better. After hamming it up for a photo, we loaded gifts into the car and set out again into the freezing rain and cold wind. 


I am grateful to Greg for driving us to Carthage. The sidewalks, parking lots and roads were becoming slick as the drizzle froze into thin sheets of ice. The windshield wanted to ice up too. We safely delivered Aubrey and made a slow and careful return trip to Joplin. I am grateful, always, for Divine protection. 

I managed to get one selfie of Aubrey and me, in the car. She snapped the pic for me. I really appreciated her good attitude this afternoon and her ability to shift and go with the flow. She didn’t complain once about having to rush our time together. Rather, she graciously adapted. And made the most of the time we did have. 

I am so blessed with the grandchildren I have. Rain or shine, good or bad weather, expected or unexpected circumstances…it is so amazing to journey with them.