"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will not shut out the lessons that have been taught to me. Please Spirit; tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"
At this point in the story, Mr. Magoo has wrapped his pudgy little arms around the feet of the Grim Reaper, and is groveling to be free from the sorry life he wasted as a greedy mortgage lender. Since Mr. Magoo has poor eyesight, the Grim Reaper looks more like an anxious Tiger Woods leaning heavily on a seven iron.
Every year in my house we watch the animated adaption of A Christmas Carol starring Mr. Magoo as Ebenezer Scrooge. Like the Grinch and Charlie Brown, Magoo has entered the DVD lexicon of tradition in our house. My wife and I introduced these features to our kids because these were the features we watched when we were growing up. That's what tradition is: stifling the present with happy memories of the past.
When I was a kid these animated classics were called "holiday specials". They were "special" because they were only broadcast once each year at Christmas and interrupted every ten minutes by Clydesdale's pulling beer wagons in the snow.
Now that these holiday features are on DVD, we can watch them whenever we want. Even in summer. In fact, I have watched these recordings so many times now that Mr. Magoo is permanently burned into the flat panel plasma of my subconscious.
But he never fails to inspire. After watching Magoo last year I conceived a reality TV show based on a myopic old man who tries to keep Christmas in his heart for a year, tentatively titled, Scrooge: An American Idol. I drafted my idea and sent it to Hollywood. It was rejected a week later, just before Christmas.
Apparently there is no audience for a weekly show featuring an altruistic geezer with bad eyesight. So this year I incorporated a revision which features Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian in recurring roles as spirits clad in boughs of holly. I am still waiting to hear back.
But the TV executives are probably right. Who wants to follow a story about a guy with a big heart? There is a reason why Dickens never wrote a sequel to A Christmas Carol; as a kind, generous man, Scrooge is pretty boring.
Still, believing in reality as I do, I thought I should at least try to keep Christmas alive all the year also. Of course there was no way I could possibly accomplish this by being a kind and generous human being, so instead I elected to leave in place some decorative Christmas greens to hang over our fireplace for the year.
My wife was appalled. She thought they would become a fire hazard.
It seems to me that when you surgically separate an evergreen tree from its roots, loop it with strands of 110 volt electricity, light it in the living room, and then ignite a Yule log in celebration, everything becomes a fire hazard. But this kind of logic doesn't really sit well with my wife. So I tried to appeal to her better holiday nature.
"I want to honor Christmas in my hearth, and try to keep it all the year." I told her. "Just like Magoo."
She quickly informed me that Mr. Magoo, just like Scrooge, kept Christmas in his heart, not his hearth, and that I would be far better off honoring the season by watering the house plants once in a while. But with some gentle persuasion from the kids, who just wanted to see if such a thing could be accomplished, the greens remained suspended above our fireplace for an entire year.
By summer they were still green in a brown sort of way. By mid December, a full year later, they were brown in a green sort of way.
STAGE V. The End Of It
This is how Dickens titled the last chapter of A Christmas Carol, as if the matter of human kindness was something to be acknowledged, and then tidied up in a happy ending two paragraphs long. It seemed to work well for him.
But as boring as it may be, I don't really think there is an End Of It.
In the summer, when life is easy, the evergreens hide amid the lush greenery of trees and bushes and grass. But in winter, when the living earth goes brown, the evergreens stand out in singular beauty, and we wrap them with lights in celebration. We forget that they haven't changed, that they are ever green.
It seems to me that this is the measure of the holidays. It is how we choose to treat each other year after year when the weather turns cold, when lines are long and tensions are high, when life is difficult or even overwhelming, and the Post Office has just closed. It is how we choose to behave within the brown hues of life—past and present—and how we strive to look after one another in the years to come.
This Christmas Mr. Magoo will go on to be "as good a man as the old city has ever known", the Grinch's heart will grow three sizes, and Charlie Brown's spindly tree will be magically transformed with nothing but goodwill. Heck, there is even room for Tiger Woods amid these holiday classics.
But a new decade starts next week. My tree needs some water, and I too, could use a drink. God bless us, everyone!