My very first trip to Alabaster after Tiffanni and I started dating was to see her church’s production The Gospel According to Scrooge. A reimagined take on the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Tiffanni was very sad that she couldn’t be in the musical, “I’ve been in it every year since I can remember. I played the very first Tiny Tim.” But we were off gallivanting at college six hundred miles away, just a bit too much of a commute for her to make practices. It was December of 1996.
We watched and laughed, and true to form, she talked me through the whole thing. “Watch this”, “Here comes a funny part”, “I love this kid playing Tiny Tim.” We hadn’t dated long enough yet for her to learn my pet peeve of talking through movies and shows. Not that that would have any bearing on the rest of our lives.
We spent three Christmases together before we were married and each one continued the new tradition of watching Scrooge. In 1999 we moved to Tennessee and Tiffanni presented our pastor with a fun idea- “Let’s do a mini-production of Scrooge.” She taught songs and parts and we covered the sanctuary with fake snow and streamers. It’s hard to compete with a cast and crew of over 100, but she treated it like we were Broadway and the President was coming to watch.
Each new place, new church, another collaged version of her childhood tradition. Tiffanni adores Christmas. Every year that we have been married, she’s asked to set out Christmas decorations earlier and earlier. We once put them out before Halloween. Another time we never took the Christmas tree down because we were in an apartment and I didn’t know where to store it- so I didn’t fight her. We moved into our brand new home that we built that November the 1st and took the tree straight from one Living Room to the next. She begs for Christmas carols in August, Hot chocolate in September, and decorations by October. I think in another life she was the ghost of Christmas present.
When we moved to Alabaster in 2004, the first thing that she said to me was, “Now I get to be in Scrooge!” Nothing made her happier. Addyson was six months old and I kept her while Tiffanni sang her Christmas carol heart out. Each year, as the children came of age (old enough to be in the play, I mean, what else would it mean?) they joined the cast. They set themselves up all year to tryout for a new part. My long-suffering family has driven down and over for years to come be a part of our tradition. We sing and act and dance and laugh. It’s a part of our family and my kids don’t know Christmas without it.
Last month I turned 40. And it just so happens that I’ve spent half of my life with Ebenezer Scrooge, “Thank You Very Much”, and the Cratchit family- twenty years with that first Tiny Tim. However, I’ve spent the last five years with three ghosts. A ghost of Christmas Past that reminds me of what was and heckles me at what should be. A ghost of Christmas present that changes daily. The reality of our world constantly adjusting to a new consequence of a tiresome foe. And more and more lately the all too familiar ghost of Christmas Future. The most haunting and unnerving of the disembodied.
This year I felt the ghost of Christmas Future the most. The spirit followed me around the entire production. Tiffanni, unable to be on stage without help, she sang the first song and the last. All dolled up for 10 minutes, she spent the middle of the production in my office watching Christmas movies on Netflix. Each year, a little less, and at some point, not at all. I even caught myself more than once imagining what it would take to build a wooden wheelchair to prolong the inevitable.
Somewhere along the way Scrooge just became a part of our family. The other four of us grafted into Tiffanni’s elaborate childhood nostalgia. Reliving old memories and making new ones. I’ve spent half of my life with three ghosts and an angel. Remembering the past, living the present, and speculating the future. Each ghost leaving their mark on how we view the moment. I’d love to wake up and it all be a dream, able to learn and change and grow from an alternate lived reality, but that’s not my story. So, we’ll live this one. “God bless us, everyone.”
*photo cred by my friend Charity