Shadowing Dickens - A Christmas Novel promo cover

Christmas Columns

Bringing home Dickens’ ghosts - Dec. 3, 1994 - This is where it started, I believe. That holiday season, I read A Christmas Carol aloud to our three children, and found myself hooked once again on this wonderful story. I wanted to know more about how Dickens came to create his marvelous tale about Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas. The idea lay dormant for a spell. But the seed had been planted.

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Wedding ring a symbol - of bills, friends and even the cat - Jan. 7, 1996 - We got married two days before Christmas in 1995, a Dickensian wedding in the home where we still live, where we raised three kids and three dogs. The cat is long gone. The dog is a little leery of the grandchildren these days, but he’s getting used to them. A few years ago, my wife gave me another wedding ring. The old ones, the ones we picked out so many years ago, had serrated edges that hurt our fingers. The new one is more comfortable. The symbol endures.

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‘God bless us, everyone!’ – Dickens’ tale a Christmas gift for all - Dec. 24, 1995 - This column ran in the Journal the day after our Dickensian wedding. Not long after, I began doing the research that would eventually lead me to write my own Christmas novel, Shadowing Dickens. Over time, I came to know the author well and understand, I believe, where his story came from and what it meant to him. When it was time for me to begin writing, I retired each evening to my office upstairs, turned the lights off, lit a candle, and scratched down my words longhand, using a fountain pen and blue-black ink. It made me feel closer to him.

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Then my heart hiccuped - Jan. 6, 1996 - I said we had a Dickensian wedding. I didn’t say it went smoothly. In fact, the proceedings made for a comic (almost tragic) melodrama that in another time might have been a lovely set piece for one of Dickens’s own novels. Note: Years later, my wife overheard two people talking about this crazy story one of them had read in the newspaper, about some hapless groom who forgot to get a wedding licence and nearly ruined everything. She just smiled, knowingly.

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Gold, frankincense and jeans; Kids are no longer satisfied with swaddling clothes - Dec. 17, 1994 - The teenager I wrote this column about is 32 years old now, and I’m the one wearing expensive jeans. Who knew he would grow up to be so practical? He has a wife and newborn of his own. He’s taller than me and, I suspect, more mature than I was at his age. I’m going to enjoy watching him be a father.

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Finding the Christmas spirit in the dustballs under the bed - Dec. 24, 1994 - I wrote this almost twenty years ago. It still stands. Some feelings we never outgrow, and thank goodness for that.

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It's a lot to ask from one day of the year... and ourselves - Dec. 15, 1996 - The children I wrote about here are grown now, and two of them have children of their own. We still share them over the holidays, but now it’s with strange creatures known as in-laws. A few years after I wrote this column, I went looking for my birth father and found more than I bargained for. I discovered that I have two half-brothers and two half-sisters. I love them fiercely but rarely see them. Life is complicated. That never changes.

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Always there were sprouts - but the store-bought gifts are harder to recall - Dec. 22, 1996 - I still hate Brussels sprouts. I still love Christmas dinners. I was right about the memories. This fall, while cleaning out the basement, we found the panda bear my daughter wanted so badly that one particular Christmas. The little fellow has held up, over the years, better than I have. She can take him home now and pass him down to my granddaughter. Time marches on. Memories accumulate.

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