A Dickens Christmas x 5
I came across this jolly factoid cluster while researching an idea for a sequel to my own Christmas novella: "Milagro on 34th Avenue." That 2015 novella, about which I've written here previously, gives homage to my favourite Christmas movie - Miracle on 34th Street (particularly the 1947 original with Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara and little Natalie Wood, directed by playwright George Seaton). I derived Milagro's characters from my personal experiences as a "real-bearded" department-store Santa several seasons running back in the early 'aughts - a source of story material by no means exhausted. A third element of "Milagro" involves children because - in the spirit of Dickens - every Yuletide tale worth its tinsel needs to give Christmas trees and conscience a good shake.
In the 1947 movie, little Natalie Wood asks Macy's Kris Kringle to get her mother a house as a test of his authenticity. In my version, which also contains supernatural overtones, two children ask a Manhattan department store Santa for their missing mother. It turns out that their mother had been swept up and interred by immigration authorities leaving her kids orphaned.
Little did I know when I wrote this five years ago, that my plot would be so prophetic. I didn't come close to imagining the Trump Administration's crimes against refugee children starting when he came to power a year later. That was the stuff of Gotham City supervillians.
Dickens intended each of his Christmas stories as "a blow for the poor," according to biographer John Forster. But he would have had to invent a Gotham City supervillian to come up with what Trump did to thousands of children (even nursing infants) in his administration's charge: summarily ripping them from their parents and putting them in cages, admittedly to deter central American refugees from seeking asylum in the United States.
By the way: As of this writing more than 500 of these children remain orphaned in U.S. detention due to Trump officials' inability or unwillingness to find their parents as ordered by federal judge. (The American Civil Liberties Union - not Trump's government - still carries the brunt of finding and reuniting these families and representing them in court, which is why I have been donating Milagro royalties - such as they are - to the ACLU.)
Santa arrived early this year with the November 3rd defeat of Trump and the December arrival of anti-COVID-19 vaccines. We're all wishing for a boring 2021, once they take out the garbage at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20. Of course, challenges and struggle will continue. America starts the new year in Dickensian conditions - thousands in food lines, millions jobless and facing evictions, a runaway pandemic death toll. Meanwhile, Trump's congressional allies withhold aid - in other words keep making "American great again."
|Scene from "The Haunted Man," 1848
Dickens' "The Chimes" is anything but a sentimental Christmas story. It deals with the question of whether the human race is worth saving. Dickens tells from the story of an impoverished porter - i.e. the street messengers popular in Victorian London - his daughter and one of his powerful clients intent upon cutting off already deficient government doles to the poor.
In the biblical tradition, is the poorest of characters - the grubby, limping runner Toby - not the richest - who hears the redeeming message of the chimes. Sound familiar? Dickens tells this story in prose as ironic, dark and lyrical as anything in "Bleak House."
To wit: Toby "... found himself face to face with his own child. and looking close into her eyes ... Bright eyes they were. Eyes that would bear a world of looking in, before their depth was fathomed. Dark eyes that reflected back the eyes which searched them... "
Once again today, we writers ponder the deeper questions, and depths of depravity that challenge the best of us. Scrooge cared little for Tiny Tim, but it's hard to imagine him setting up child concentration camps to terrorize migrants. We'll need something more that a "return to normal" to remove this level of corruption in the coming year.
Please Santa - and you state's attorneys general out there: How about some accountability with that lump of coal in Trump's stocking? How about stuffing Trump's 2021 Christmas goose with grand jury investigations to go with scoldings by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future?
Beyond my reach, but for my part, by the time the jolly elf comes around again I hope to follow Dickens' example and write at least one more Christmas story - four more if I can manage it and get the elves to help. A joyful season to all, dear readers! Ho ho ho - jingle bells and to all a good night!