‘A Christmas Carol’ still rings true Last week I wrote about one of the worst Christmas movies ever made, “Santa Claus conquers the Martians” – a true Christmas Craptacular. If that didn’t put you in the holiday spirit, perhaps a few lines inspired by a musical version of “A Christmas Carol” I saw Sunday at UK’s Guignol Theatre will serve. I saw it because my daughter was in it (as a dancer and extra) and so was her mother, as the Ghost of Christmas Present. They were great – but you might expect me to say that. What you wouldn’t expect me to say, if you knew that I don’t particularly like musicals or the ticket snafus that invariably accompany shows at the Guignol, is that this version of the Dickens’s classic was extraordinary. The acting, the songs, and the sets were very nearly perfect. Chuck D would be proud. As I left the theatre, I thought about all this, and the folks I know who are going through tough times. None of them are remotely as wretched as the pre-visitation version of Ebeneezer Scrooge. None of them are miserly, or petty, or without a bit of sentiment for others. None of them are likely to be visited by three ghosts on Christmas morning. They’ll have to get better with help from their family and friends and their faith. “A Christmas Carol” is a work of fiction, but I believe its resonance, 172 years later, has less to do with the fine writing than the message: that every moment offers us a chance to do what’s right for ourselves and others, and that redemption is always possible. I’m sorta counting on that, personally. (I realize a much older and even better-selling book covers many of the same themes.) This is a mean ol’ world sometimes. We’re only here for awhile, and if we’re fortunate enough that it’s a long while, we’ll be floored again and again. Loved ones will leave us, for a time or forever, and the best of us will sometimes hurt the ones we love the most. “A Christmas Carol” is a needed reminder of the sorrow and the hope in the world, and ends perfectly, with the words of a crippled boy saved after Scrooge’s change of heart allows his family to better care for him: “God bless us, every one!” said Tiny Tim. I won’t try to top that. Electric football and an old checker board When I was a lad, every right-thinking boy wanted an electric football set. For those of you raised on increasingly realistic video games, let me describe how it worked: Plastic figures in the poses of football players were mounted on rectangular pieces with four or six tines protruding beneath. They were arranged in formations, then, when both “coaches” were ready, the on switch would be activated and the field would begin to vibrate. No matter the home team, every game was played on the New Madrid fault line. Invariably, most of the players would merely turn in circles, the running backs would head straight for the sidelines, and the blockers (who couldn’t carry the felt football!) would be the only pieces that traveled in a straight line. None of that mattered, not for the first month, anyway. On days when it was too cold to play pick-up football, we could play electric football, and even if it was anything but realistic, and the transformer smelled funny by halftime, we could laugh at the antics of our players. Back then, sonny, we had to use our imaginations! Other favorite gifts included Strat-O-Matic sports games, for which this geeky boy kept statistics and spent thousands of hours sitting cross-legged on the floor and shooing the cat out of the game box. There was a space helmet when I was six or seven, and a Danny O’ Day ventriloquist’s doll; cowboy and cowgirl suits for my younger brother and sister, and, when we were older, an ancient pinball machine Dad stuck in the basement. It almost made us popular in the neighborhood. Then there was the checkerboard. I don’t recall who began what became of this family tradition, but my brother and I would take turns wrapping up a beat-up checkerboard and presenting it as a gift to each other. I think I gave it to him on the odd years, and vice-versa. Scrooge would have been puzzled, but proud. I hope every Dear Reader has a wonderful Christmas, and that those who are pinching pennies will remember that even a brand-new checkerboard only costs a few bucks, including the checkers. God bless us, every one.