A Christmas Journey
by Glenn Washburn
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He sat alone, huddled on the couch fully clothed; layered with long underwear, a flannel shirt, down jacket, hat, gloves and blankets from every bed in the apartment. It was Christmas Eve and his roommates had headed home days earlier. There was no food in the fridge, no heating oil in the oil tank and no money in his wallet. These were not uncommon conditions for a college student; what was uncommon was the absence of any family to go home to, eggnog toasts waiting or present-laden Christmas tree.
The only decoration in their cold apartment was a half-hearted evergreen they found by the curb on their way home from a bar one night. In typical sacrilegious college fashion they just leaned against a wall and decorated it with empty beer cans and potato chip bags. He had told himself it didn’t matter. He had even volunteered to work the skeleton crew at the hospital on Christmas Day. Now, however, as he lay sheltered in his man-made cocoon, he began to realize how deep the lie was that he had told himself.
Flipping on the TV to distract himself, he heard a choir singing “Silent Night.” He let out a sarcastic laugh, “Yeah, right; silent night…lousy night.” It might have been holy one night years ago; but he didn’t feel any of that holiness this Christmas Eve. Wrapping the blankets tighter around him, he began surfing through the channels; vainly hoping that something…anything might be on to slow his growing depression. He stopped when he heard the announcer declaring, “Stay tuned for the television premier of “Scrooge’ with Albert Finney.” Ever since he was a small boy he had loved Christmas movies and specials. He had the uncanny ability to forget he was watching a movie and be completely drawn into it. He never allowed the natural tendency to critically judge a movie by its merits or shortcomings to interfere with his imaginary journey into the story that was presented. Maybe it was because of all the foster homes, his mentally ill mother or the father that abandoned him; but his imagination had always been a reliable vehicle to transport him on a moments notice out of his life. Now, shivering alone in his apartment, he climbed into that vehicle once again.
Immediately, he traded his empty apartment for the cold but bustling streets of Dickens’s London. He could almost smell the roast duckling, hear the crunch of snow beneath his feet and experience the scenes as if they were all around him. As the main character walked his three-part road to redemption; to his surprise, he discovered that his own emotional transformation was mysteriously bound to that of Scrooge’s. Completely lost within the tale before him; Scrooge’s journey from darkness to light had come to mirror his own plight. In some way, he didn’t completely understand, he had traveled deeper into this story than he had for any other movie he had eve seen and now their journeys were the same. Part of him was terrified that he had allowed this movie to so completely draw himself out of himself. He actually wondered if he was going crazy. But another part was excited about where this story might end. Of course, he knew how Scrooge turned out. But would that be his story as well?
Finally, the movie ended and he found himself wrapped in an unfamiliar joy. He couldn’t tell you why; but he suddenly shed his blankets, zipped up his jacket and headed outside. It was midnight…Christmas Day! He looked up into the star-filled night and whispered a blessing to Someone he had never met before, “Happy Birthday…” He paused a moment and then in a voice that didn’t even sound like him he added. “…Lord.” Not exactly your traditional surrender nor was it a complete one; but when he whispered that one final word he was flooded with a strange and welcome warmth.
As he suddenly realized he was not alone…or ever would be again!
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