The Westport Country Playhouse staged a production of A Christmas Carol, promising that it would be an annual event. This year, one of the children in our church school, Luke Sauer, 6, played Tiny Tim. He had more stage time than Tiny Tim usually has, and he was great.
In my annual reading of Dickens’ marvelous story I get some new little twist to the ghostly tale. New meanings emerge. This year I was struck by the emphasis on Scrooge’s new-found sense of humor, illustrated by the joke Scrooge thought he was playing on Bob Cratchit by sending him that huge turkey:
“He shan’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending it to Bob’s will be.”
You remember: he paid the boy to go buy it, and he paid for a cab to help the Poulterer deliver it anonymously. The day before, in the beginning of the story, he was asked to make a contribution to the fund the two ‘portly gentlemen’ were raising for the poor. They asked, ‘What can we put you down for?’ He blurted, ‘Nothing!’ ‘Oh,’ said one of the gentlemen, ‘you wish to remain anonymous.’ That’s not what he meant, of course. But he had no sense of humor, then.
Joe Miller, it seems, had a reputation for playing practical jokes. Scrooge’s conversion arrived first with a feeling of appreciation for being alive, when he woke up on Christmas morning after the ghostly visitations. Then it was a sense of compassion, wanting to do something for Bob Cratchit. It was also characterized by a brand new sense of humor. That’s when he makes the comment about the turkey being ‘twice the size of Tiny Tim,’ and a reference to Joe Miller. Then there’s this wonderful passage:
“The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.”
Later he made a generous contribution ‘for the poor and destitute who suffer from want of common comforts, many who suffer from want of common necessaries.’ He thanked ‘the portly gentleman’ for making it possible; ‘there are many back payments included,’ he said. He gave an amount that allowed him to feel good, as opposed to the idea of ‘giving till it hurts.’
Then he walked to his nephew Fred’s house, to whom he offered his infamous Bah, humbug! the day before. He walked past the door a dozen times before he got up the courage to go in. He knocks, is greeted by a maid, and goes into the dining room alone. When Fred sees his uncle he exclaims, “Why bless my soul!” A perfect response! He was blessed, indeed. Then Scrooge says, “It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”
That scene never ceases to move me. Scrooge is a changed man, and he’s immediately forgiven, without the need to ask – it’s all implied. So, as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless us every one!”
A blessing on your house,