A decade of teaching middle school left me with a curious set of skills. I can decipher both teenage boy chicken scratch, as well as teenage girl fluffy, curlicue handwriting. I can read a two-page essay composed of a single paragraph, lacking in both a thesis and organization and still decode the gist of the paper. I can recommend young adult books based solely on the question, “What was the last good book you read?” with probably a 90% accuracy rate. Ten years of teaching eighth grade also gave me a unique ability to quote passages from classics such as The Outsiders (I’m not just talking the easy ones, like Johnny’s dying words, “Stay gold Ponyboy; stay gold.”) and “The Cask of Amontialldo” (“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”). You don’t even want to get me started on why Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is the perfect choice for a novel about orphaned teenage hoodlums. Not only can I do an entire ninety minute class on the topic, but I can do it in a way that gets thirteen year olds to enthusiastically agree that American poetry written about rural New England naturally fits with stabbing Socs and late night rumbles.
A Christmas Carol was always one of my favorite novels to teach. I meticulously planned and plotted my limited number of days between the Thanksgiving break and the Christmas one so that each stave was thoroughly read and enjoyed by all. Having taught the Ghost Story of Christmas for eight years to three different classes each year, plus adding in my own personal readings, I’ve probably read it cover to cover thirty times in the last ten years. That many readings of anything is bound to give any bookworm a keen sense for every line in the text.
Even without a class to regale with the wonders of Dickens’ prose, I didn’t want to let my holiday season be deprived of a little Victorian British cheer. Thad, during one of his excursions as sightseeing coordinator for visiting Idaho friends, saw that Ford’s Theater was putting on the play this winter. There couldn’t be a better marriage of our favorite things! A classic Advent season play for me and a historical site visit for him.
Last week, we, along with two great friends, braved the elements to attend the Wednesday night showing. While “…External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge,” I was rather drenched after tiptoeing, in heels, along three blocks of puddles, even with an umbrella hovering over my head.
Though the audience was damp and chilled, the play was amazing!
The Ghost of Christmas Past had a personality like I had never envisioned. As she floated above the stage in her all white, sparkling ballerina get-up, she cheerfully gave Scrooge the what-what about having forgotten the true meaning of the holiday spirit. During Fezziwig’s Christmas Eve dance party, I felt like I was at a tennis match as my eyes jumped from the lively action on stage to the crazily dancing ghost floating above and back again.
I’ve attended a handful (possibly inching towards two handfuls) of adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novel over the years, many of them with sixty middle school students in tow, but I have to say that Ford’s Theater’s retelling ranks right at the top when it comes to the creepy factor. While Marley’s haggard old face never surfaces on a doorknocker, it does mystically appear and disappear from a painting hanging in the center of Scrooge’s room. Between this and the eerie floating Ghost of Christmas Future, I am quite certain that the towheaded little boy sitting in the row in front of us has experienced some rather haunting nightmares.
Dressed in our finery, accompanied by fantastic friends, the evening was a resounding success for both the literary and history buffs residing in this little mo-partment. This Christmas time just got a little bit Christmas-ier. “And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”