Inspired by Joey’s and Kim Smith’s countdowns and Greg Bover’s posts, I was thinking about a GMG countdown of favorite quotable Christmas and holiday excerpts, with an extra bonus for passages with Gloucester ties. Please add or send quotes, passages, and poems that we can delight in and share.
I’ll start with a description of jubilant awakening — children bursting through doors early Christmas morning — from a 1939 book by Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver, which for me is also a sweet reminder about my folks as they followed a similar “stocking first-presents after” routine and were beloved.
A little background: Struther’s book stemmed from her popular fiction column begun in 1937 and published every two weeks in The Times. Following the book’s smash reception, the classic William Wyler movie, Mrs. Miniver, starring Greer Garson was released in 1942. The movie is based on the book but its own story. The movie was nominated for 12 Oscars and garnered 6 including best picture. The music is by Herbert Stothart who won an Oscar for his work on the Wizard of Oz.
Mrs. Miniver on embracing positive enthusiasm:
“It began in the same way every year: the handle of her bedroom door being turned just loudly enough to wake her up, but softly enough not to count as waking her up on purpose; (her child) Toby glimmering like a moth in the dark doorway, clutching a nobbly Christmas stocking in one hand and holding up his pyjama trousers with the other. (He insisted upon pyjamas, but he had not yet outgrown his sleeping-suit figure.)
‘Toby! It’s only just after six. I did say not till seven.’ ‘But, Mummy, I can’t tell the time.’ He was barefoot and shivering, and his eyes were like stars.
‘Come here and get warm, you little goat.’ He was into her bed in a flash, stocking and all. The tail of a clockwork dog scratched her shoulder. A few moments later another head appeared round the door, a little higher up. ‘Judy, darling, it’s too early, honestly.’ ‘I know, but I heard Toby come in, so I knew you must be awake.’ ‘All right, you can come into bed, buy you’ve got to keep quiet for a bit. Daddy’s still asleep.’ And then a third head, higher up still, and Vin’s voice, even deeper than it had been at Long Leave. ‘I say, are the others in here? I thought I heard them.’ He curled himself up on the foot of his father’s bed. And by that time, of course, Clem was awake too.
The old transparent stratagem had worked to perfection once more: there was nothing for it but to switch on the lights, shut the windows, and admit that Christmas Day had insidiously but definitely begun.
The three right hands – Vin’s strong and broad, Judy’s think and flexible, Toby’s still a star-fish – plunged in and out of the three distorted stockings, until there was nothing left but the time-hallowed tangerine in the toe… Their methods were as different as their hands…
To the banquet of real presents which was waiting downstairs, covered with a red and white dust-sheet, the stocking-toys, of course, were only an apéritif; but they had a special and exciting quality of their own. Perhaps it was the atmosphere in which they were opened — the chill, the black window-panes, the unfamiliar hour; perhaps it was the powerful charm of the miniature, of toy toys, of smallness squared; perhaps it was the sense of limitation within a strict form, which gives to both the filler and the emptier of a Christmas stocking something of the same enjoyment which is experienced by the writer and the reader of a sonnet; or perhaps it was merely that the spell of the old legend still persisted, even though for everybody in the room (except the child) the legend itself was outworn…There were cross-currents of pleasure, too: smiling glances exchanged by her and Vin about the two younger children (she remembered suddenly, having been an eldest child, the unsurpassable sense of grandeur that such glances gave one); and by her and Clem, because they were both grown-ups; and by her and Judy, because they were both women; and by her and Toby, because they were both the kind that leaves the glass marble till the end. The room was laced with an invisible network of affectionate understanding.
This was one of the moments, thought Mrs. Miniver, which paid off at a single stroke all the accumulations on the debit side of parenthood: the morning sickness and the quite astonishing pain; the pram in the passage, the cold mulish glint in the cook’s eye; the holiday nurse who had been in the best families; the pungent white mice, the shriveled caterpillars; the plasticine on the door-handles, the face-flannels in the bathroom, the nameless horrors down the crevices of armchairs; the alarms and emergencies, the swallowed button, the inexplicable earache, the ominous rash appearing on the eve of a journey; the school bills and the dentists’ bills; the shortened step, the tempered pace, the emotional compromises, the divided loyalties, the adventures continually forsworn…
There were sounds of movement in the house; they were within measurable distance of the blessed chink of early morning tea. Mrs. Miniver looked towards the window. The dark sky had already paled a little in its frame of cherry-pink chintz. Eternity framed in domesticity. Never mind. One had to frame it in something, to see it at all.”