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Chapter 6 of Days of A Christmas Carol Past, My Thirty Year Relationship With Victorian Ghosts

An awkward stage

By Rebecca MortonPublished 6 months ago Updated 6 months ago 3 min read
Chapter 6 of Days of A Christmas Carol Past, My Thirty Year Relationship With Victorian Ghosts
Photo by Dmytro Tolokonov on Unsplash

I had it bad for Bob Cratchit, or rather, the actor who played him. About two weeks before we, the cast of that 1980 stage production of A Christmas Carol, were sidetracked by the John Lennon tragedy, I was falling in love. Days before I turned fourteen, the object of my crush was inappropriate to say the least.

Yes, Ebenezer Scrooge’s clerk, father of Tiny Tim and several other children, was causing me to lose my focus on stage. And I was playing his daughter! And my REAL father, the director, was watching the whole thing!

These days, it would be described as more than awkward. It was cringe! It was my first taste of teenage romantic turmoil.

I’m sure my dad never noticed my agony. If he’d had any clue I was crushing on “Bob”, surely he would not have blocked one particular Cratchit Family scene the way he did. It was, of all scenes, the one shown to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come: THE ONE WHERE TINY TIM IS DEAD!

It is a dark, grim scene, of course. It is one of the scenes that transforms callous Scrooge into a nice guy who helps Tiny Tim not die after all.

It was a confusing scene to play, even for actors not crushing on other actors. Were we really grieving as if we had really lost our son and brother, or were we just a vision shown to Scrooge — a possibility rather than reality? Did this give us cause to overact a little?

My dad wanted us to be as realistic as possible. But the Cratchit kids were just that, kids. I was the oldest one. The more we tried to be downcast and teary, the more we would have to stifle giggles until it hurt.

So every time we rehearsed this scene, there I was, the lone teenage Cratchit (teen daughter “Martha” was played by an adult), trying not to laugh, but also marveling at how gloriously cute the Bob actor was, even more so when he was acting bravery through grief. I’d never seen such startlingly beautiful grief!

Then, once we were out of the rehearsal room and working out the scene onstage, my dad told “Bob”, “Now, go over to Belinda, (me), and stand next to her.” Wow!

Then, my dad told “Bob” to look at the rest of his children and his wife, and put his arm around MY shoulder. “Bob” obeyed. Then, he said the line, bravely through his tears, “I am very happy.”

Could everyone hear my heart beating out of my chest? Could they see it?

Nothing in life had prepared me for this moment. And this moment would be repeated at every rehearsal and performance after this, until the final show on December 14th. Over those weeks, my obsession with Bob morphed from mere physical attraction to fascination with the love shared by Bob and Mrs. Cratchit.

I don’t mean fascination with the actors who played them, but those characters, invented by Dickens, representing working-class married couples of Victorian London. They must have had an all-consuming passion for each other which caused them to keep having child after child despite their poverty and hardship!

It was so romantic, it took over my soul for a few weeks. They had their love to keep them warm and their outlook bright! It made me lightheaded sometimes just thinking about it.

Or maybe it was hormones. I had my period during one of the performance weeks to add even more awkwardness to what I wanted to be a glamorous life in the theater.

Well, girls my age in Victorian London had to work all day in factories while they had their periods. I just had to speak my seven lines loudly and not faint when Bob Cratchit put his arm around my shoulder. It was better than being an ordinary New Jersey eighth grader.

This was my second and final year performing in A Christmas Carol.

However, every few years, for the next quarter of a century, I would be involved with productions of this haunting Christmas tale in some meaningful way. It would be a constant in a life of confusing changes as I grew up, went to work, married, and became a mother.

I did not marry the Bob actor or any other actor. This was a great relief to my dad.

____________________________________________________

This chapter was originally published on Medium.com.

NonfictionMemoirAutobiography

About the Creator

Rebecca Morton

My childhood was surrounded by theatre people. My adulthood has been surrounded by children! You can also find me on Medium here: https://medium.com/@becklesjm, and now I have a Substack newsletter at https://rebeccamorton.substack.com/

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    Rebecca MortonWritten by Rebecca Morton

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