Let's Talk

Dickens and the Christmas House of Love

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast:

Get caught up with all episodes in the Developing a New Focus series.

Everybody is familiar with the popular author, Charles Dickens, who wrote A Christmas Carol.

Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in England and had a tough life. He was forced to work at a factory, pasting labels on shoe polish containers, to help support his family. Historians believe he suffered from asthma.

His first story, “A Dinner at Poplar Walk,” was published in a magazine in 1833. He authored 15 novels, five novellas, and many stories and essays. But most people know him because of his most famous novella, A Christmas Carol.  

When I first started writing, I belonged to a group of writers who had been writing much longer than I had. At that time I began writing fiction and one of the pieces I wrote was “Dickens and the Christmas House of Love.”

As I read it again, I thought I would share my attempts to put a new spin on Dickens and A Christmas Carol. I wasn’t trying to add to or alter anything. I was just intrigued with his novel and used it as an inspiration.

Dickens and the Christmas House of Love

By Marlene Anderson

Dickens was downcast as he moved from room to room in this home that held so many memories of seasons past. The house had mellowed with age; its bright green trim and crisp white siding had yellowed and now glowed in the setting sun. It sat comfortably among the twisted trees with wide spreading limbs that had been planted so many years ago; leaves fallen, swirled, and resting undisturbed in the flower beds adding their nourishment to the soil for a spring revival.

Like Dickens, there was a melancholy that had settled everywhere. Within the halls and rooms, there remained a residue of a different time when laughter and singing rang through the house. And this season especially, Dickens remembered the aroma of apples and cinnamon and spices.

Because it was Christmas, you see. And this was where friends and family came together to enjoy the season’s warmth and festivities.

In the corner, beside the large picture window, stood the large freshly cut Christmas tree, its scent permeating the entire house, branches bursting with bright-colored ornaments collected over many years. The twinkling lights spilled out the window, lighting the dark and wet sidewalks so typical of Seattle. It was where the family gathered on Christmas Eve, singing the old carols of peace on earth and silent nights and little towns of Bethlehem.

As Dickens paused in his reflection of what was, the words of the songs sung so long ago seemed to melt together with the lingering scent of apple pie and burning candles . . . flowing images that floated together forming snapshots of a time long ago – last year – a decade ago – or was it longer? Time seemed to have no beginning or ending – it just was.

So how did it come to this – a house full of laughter and squeals of delight replaced with eerie silence broken only by the memories, stored in the walls, that released themselves as you walked by?

Dickens was lonely. He didn’t want to haunt this home – he wanted to be with a family again.

Daylight sneaked over the mountains and flooded the little town where Dickens roamed in the old house situated on one of the rolling hills in the suburbs of town. The sun sparkled on the frost that covered everything with its sugary crystals.

Dickens wandered into one of his favorite rooms. The library was the hub of so many intimate conversations, quiet moments – a place to get away and escape into the endless supply of books that lined the shelves.

They were empty now; all that remained were traces of dust that outlined placement of books less readily sought after and smudges on the lower shelves where children’s fingers grabbed for the latest Dr. Seuss.

There lingered in the room the faint scent of tobacco from a pipe smoked in contentment after the pressures of the day, and linseed oil, and yes, even the faint stale residue of old musty copies of books resting on the high reaches of the shelves.

He could see the desk placed just in front of a southern wall where the early morning sun’s rays filtered through the beveled windowpane, streaking the room in slices of brilliance.

The large leather chair with books at its feet was a favored reading chair, placed at an angle to capture the last rays of the sun as it slid down behind the spreading leaves of a large oak tree whose size bespoke of centuries.

Although no longer there, the image of that beloved chair remained floating in his memory, as sharp as if it was yesterday, its surfaces cracked and molded by the many shapes and sizes of people who had settled into it and allowed the cares of the day to sink away. Ashes still remained in the fireplace which glowed cherry warm and inviting on a cold winter’s night.

Home – a place of solace and safety – where family and friends gathered to heal from life’s wounds, regained stability and purpose once more. A home once full of laughter and the excitement of life that only comes with the young, interspersed with the tears of disappointments wiped away by a loving mother.

Dickens continued on his journey, up the stairs and into the many bedrooms, some for children and one large one for parents. He lingered only a little while before returning downstairs.

The long-gone smells of pumpkin pie freshly baked and a large roast with red potatoes and juicy sweet carrots and onions, pungent and inviting, still drew one closer to the room where so much activity reigned throughout the day. From early morning to late afternoon meals were prepared, vegetables cleaned, and fruit stored. Dickens could still see the busy workers.

But just as all journeys come to an end, Dickens realized it was time to go. He drifted out the door, locking and securing it behind him. He was both happy and sad.

But doesn’t Christmas leave us with both the excitement of gatherings and presents and yummy food, and the lingering sadness when everybody has gone home, the tree gone and the kitchen silent? And life goes on.

One Response to “Dickens and the Christmas House of Love”

Leave a Comment