If I ever had to leave my house in a hurry with just a few moments to grab my most prized possessions, there is only a handful (in addition to some clothes) I would choose to take with me. They include family photos, the little gifts and cards my boys made for me through the years, and my favorite books.
The book I treasure most is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, a longtime favorite author. I bought my hardcover copy of this book in 1993 at Oakland University in Rochester. What makes it so special is that it was autographed to my young sons by a wonderful gentleman named Terry Kilburn. At the time, Mr. Kilburn was artistic director at OU’s Meadow Brook Theatre (1970-1994). Better still, he played the role of “Tiny Tim” in the 1938 movie version of “A Christmas Carol,” which starred Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge.
I love this movie, having seen it for the first time as a child in Chicago on WGN’s “Family Classics” program. The story means as much to me today as it did back then. I would be surprised if there is anyone who doesn’t know the story; but just in case, it is about a miserly old man (Mr. Scrooge) in the early 1800s Victorian England, who comes to realize the error of his ways after he is visited by three spirits overnight on Christmas Eve: the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.
Through these visits, Mr. Scrooge learns some valuable lessons and when Christmas morning arrives, he vows to become a better person. One of the things the nice, “new” Scrooge does is bring a large Christmas goose to the family of his once overworked and underpaid employee, Bob Cratchit. Tiny Tim, the crippled (acceptable term back then) youngest son in the large Cratchit family, provides the sentimental ending to the story when he joyfully proclaims, “God bless us, every one!”
For the past two years, we have suffered through political upheaval and a worldwide pandemic, and it’s not over yet. Even the nicest of people have reached their limit, and many are behaving in uncharacteristic ways. Perhaps, we should all reminisce about our Christmases past, take a long hard look at ourselves today, and think about how we want our futures to look, and what kind of people we want to be.
Terry Kilburn, who enjoyed a successful acting career after his role as “Tiny Tim,” currently lives in Minneapolis and celebrated his 95th birthday in November. If he were to give us a Christmas message today, I would like to think it would be to reclaim our goodness, put the joy back in our hearts, and …“God bless us, every one!”
VV / stock.adobe.com
Illustration courtesy of Jessie Willcox Smith, Wiki Commons