These are Christmas stories for adults.
Not because they contain gratuitous sex (they don’t even have non-gratuitous sex). Nor is there any violence to speak of. There are a few instances of colorful profanity, but this is a device employed to add realism to the characters and, hopefully, to the stories. By making the characters and their daily lives as recognizable as possible it makes the magical things that happen to them seem possible in our own lives.
There exist Christmas stories-a-plenty geared towards children. For adults the choices are far fewer, and tend to either be museum pieces or modern works that in their attempt to avoid borrowing from the classic Christmas archetypes stray so far from the celebration we grew up with that the spirit gets lost under ponderous schmaltz (or vicious cynicism).
Aware that the average adult has as much, if not more, to gain from the Season as the children it is now geared towards, I offer up these stories. In these pages the reader will find everyday people, some nice, some not so nice, who happen to be disconnected from the Spirit of Christmas and who through grace (and sometimes fierce grace) find a way to reconnect. May these stories offer you that same gift.
A further explanation must be offered concerning the centerpiece of the collection, My Fellow Americans, God Bless Us, Every one. From that title, and the fact that this is a book of Christmas-theme stories, one would not be surprised to find that Dickens has been used as an inspiration. What may surprise the reader is that the author has taken the liberty of completely rewriting the Dickens novella, A Christmas Carol. What explanation can the author possibly offer to excuse such audacity?
Well, to begin with, A Christmas Carol is the author’s favorite story. Not a favorite Christmas story, but favorite story. Period. For the author its theme is not Christmas but redemption, and the courage it takes for the individual to tread the path of reclamation of the soul and spirit. The author is certainly not the first to view the story in this context. Others have explored its themes in a scholarly fashion, and some have used the story of Scrooge and his journey into the dark night of the soul as a model for the therapeutic process.
What has bothered the author, and became the impetus for this endeavor, is that while nearly everyone agrees that the Dickens story is a classic, very few have actually read it. Most people have seen one or more of the films based on the novella, or watched its iconography borrowed for television programs. Fewer still have seen it produced for the stage. Some of a certain generation have even heard it performed as a radio play. But because it is a ‘classic’ almost no one considers how much A Christmas Carol pertains to modern day life. For most who are aware of it, it is a musty, somewhat quaint museum piece.
So now fools rush in! Using Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as the outline, the author has taken the liberty of crafting a new version of the story based on the framework of the original one. Much of the new story will seem very familiar, even to those who have not actually read the original story. But what is new is the context in which the story unfolds.
Why bother? Because the main themes are just as applicable today as they were in Dickens’ time. And while the main character is still an exaggeration of a very powerful person, his plight still echoes in us all: as we look back at the thread of our personal histories and see how we got to where we are today, the moment will come for all of us when it is time to give up all the anger and frustration and disappointment — no matter how well earned — and reconnect to our spirit.
May you all find at least a little of that spirit in these pages, and may it light your path the whole year ‘round. — J.M.