A Christmas Carol.

‘Tis the season… for tears ?i

Now in its 19th and final season, Tom Wood’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is playing again at the Citadel.ii I joined the girl and her family to see it for the first time in perhaps ten years this past weekend, and I have to say that it really wasn’t what I expected.

Despite it being a story we all know well – a foundational part of western canon – wherein a miserly, curmudgeonly, and exceptionally wealthy old bugger named Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by a cast of spirits until he changes his ways 180-degrees and becomes the most grateful and generous old sod you ever did see, my reaction during the performance took me somewhat aback. We’ve all seen A Christmas Carol and there’s only so much you can do with the same basic story told over and over again, but lest we forget that there’s a reason Shakespeare is still performed and there’s a reason that Churches fill up this time of year more than any other : there’s a part of us that needs to hear the same stories over and over. Despite our ingrained love of novelty and shiny things, the stability of a good story gives us a measuring stick not by which to measure the world, but by which to measure ourselves.

So as we took in this beautifully crafted and familiar story once more, I couldn’t help but measure myself. With the recent and sudden passing of close family friend who I hadn’t yet grieved for (a woman more like an aunt than any of my biological ones), as well as the new-ish burden of responsibility tied inextricably to “success” (no matter how “earned”), and of course the chin-held-high courageousness of Tiny Tim (played by a darling Sasha Rybalko no bigger than my Niko), it was all I could do to bite my cheek and stare up at the stage lighting design on the ceiling as I fought vigorously against the urge to let it all come gushing out. Am I as giving of myself as I could be ? Am I as charitable as I should be ? Am I as good of a father as I need to be ? Am I learning from my children as much as I’m teaching them ? Do I love with passion ? Do I pity with compassion ? Can I change ? Will I stay the same ?

Not that there’s anything wrong with meditating upon these questions, but crying about them in public ? In this cuddly and inclusive day and age, a guy should be able to cry like a little bitch just for the asking. But I didn’t. Instead, I literally chastised myself for even coming as close to tears as I did. I mean, isn’t that what a proper role model would do ? When we look back at role models of yore, such as athletes like Lou Gehrig, do we not admire their utter stolidity, particularly relative to the blubbering belles that pass for (most) such role models today ? What happened to men being men ? What happened to stiff upper lips ? What happened to keeping it all bottled up so that our children, spouses, and friends would know what courage really looked like ? After all, isn’t that what greatness is built upon ? Isn’t that the foundation of everlasting glory ?

I ask these questions because I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that holding back this relatively rare thrust of emotion seems to have confused the shit out of my otherwise Saharan tear ducts because I now have a stye in my eye. It’s no more than a few days worth of warm compresses from normalcy, but it’s still the first time these normally dry eyes have had plugged ducts, such was the internal struggle induced by this particular stage play during this particular season.

So this Christmas/Chanukah/Chrismukkah/Festivus/Holiday season, as we reflect on the year that was and look forward to the year that will be, it’s apparently a choice between stye or cry. At least it was for me.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be shovelling snow, alone, leaving little spots of ice on the sidewalk.

A Christmas Carol is playing at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton until December 23, 2018.

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  1. Though I suppose it’s always the season for tears when “Love You Forever” is kicking around the house.
  2. Directed by Wayne Paquette. First-rate Set and Costume Design by Leslie Frankish. Lighting Design by Robert Thomson. Original Music and Sound Design by Michael Becker. Choreography by Linda Rubin. Music Direction by Steven Greenfield.

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