The Ghost of Christmas Past
No Cheeses for us Meeces
I called this my Scrooge year. A liminal space between:
The Ghost of Christmas Past : Wrapping and grieving the end of Summer Camp Island
The Ghost of Christmas Present : Not fretting too much about being productive, and spending time with my friends and family and pretending I would cook more.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come : Starting to work on what’s next.
We’re in self reflection season, or what I will forevermore be calling ‘The Scroogies’ so let’s start at the very beginning:
The Ghost of Christmas Past.
Still from Summer Camp Island boarded by Graham Falk.
We talked a lot about parrots holding grudges last week, and this year, I held grudges too. The crew of Summer Camp Island found out that our show would be taken down from HBO MAX via a deadline article, and that our final season, made during the pandemic, would not air at all, in favour of a tax break for the newest owners of HBO MAX: Discovery+. Continuing to watch so many more shows be taken down off the platform and people who I’ve worked closely with lose their jobs in waves has been heartbreaking.
I recommend this article from Vulture and this conversation on NPR’s The Business Show on why this particular takeover is something we should be paying attention to:
Where they go over the line is when they scrap something that is either almost finished or finished, because that’s when you’re screwing around with the creative process. This is how you take chunks out of brands, is when you don’t live up to your side of a deal, when you make a deal with a creative person and say we will make your show and support it and there’s a written and an unwritten rule there that you don’t screw around with that if you want to be in business with people. Matt Belloni
It felt like this experience was haunting me all year, and rightly so - it’s bloody rotten. And so I wanted to talk today about the past, and how I released a little of mine.
In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the Ghost of Christmas Past is described beautifully:
Its belt sparkled and glittered, now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body; of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again, distinct and clear as ever.
The Ghost’s form constantly changes as if looking at the Spirit mimics reflecting on memories.
So much writing on the past treats it as amorphous, ever changing, and hard to hold onto. Like a ghost, or a frothy sea:
The past is a great sea. We want to know about it all, but we hunger most for knowledge of those last frothy bits of foam that lap closest to the shore we now inhabit.
Still from Summer Camp Island boarded by Lucyola Langi
The etymology of grudge is the Middle English grutch meaning ‘complain, murmur, grumble’, or the Old French grouchier, the Middle High German grogezen (“to howl, wail”), and the German grocken (“to croak”).
It’s usage dipped in the early 20th century and has been on the rise recently, probably because of me being howling and croaking my way through the year.
By calling my feelings a grudge it feels like i’m cheapening the emotion, but I do not mean to. Grudges are often thought of as negative - stewing in the past - grumbling your life away far past the point that anyone else wants to listen anymore so you keep it to yourself, rotting from the inside out. Or as Carrie Fisher so aptly put it:
Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
But as we have established, the past is a ghost and a frothy sea - hard to hold on to - but a grudge feels beefy, sturdy and entirely mine. It feels Shakespearean. It also feels strangely like work is being done - by continuing to remember the loss that all these artists feel, it doesn’t get to go back into the of depths of the sea. I remember, I’m still angry, and i’ll use that anger to do whatever I can to make positive changes in the future.
“They say it's good to let your grudges go, but I don't know, I'm quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”
― Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies
Like my Tamagotchi in middle school that lived to a ripe old age, I am tending to mine.
At the beginning of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is described as being ‘secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster,’ which has been analyzed as meaning that Scrooge is shut up tight, closed off to others (badly chosen example image, but they’re so cute!)
But I also enjoy this analogy:
“An oyster makes a pearl as part of a cleaning process and it takes a lot of time. This could suggest that Scrooge is changing but very slowly.”
Which reminded me of this quote I read about making sour dough bread:
All you need is time. If you can find it then the rest is easy.
When I read this, still fully in my grudge, I think of it as meaning time will get me the justice I seek. But I imagine it probably means time will lead to me finding peace and forgiveness and ultimately becoming a better person with shinier hair and whiter teeth. That sounds nice, but right now, what I need is to release some of this pent up grudge so I am howling slightly less and able to live more fully in the present rather than the rotten past.
Freud employed the “hydraulic model” of emotion, believing that psychic energies build pressure and seek release, like vapor from a teakettle.
In Summer Camp Island, the witches released their pent up past emotions by burping out ghosts, a spooky version of tea kettle steam.
Illustration by Seong Ryul for Burps and Sighs
I remember when Summer Camp wrapped, our head writer Sarah Lloyd said: remember we’re all still artists - which I needed to hear. TV networks may be able to say whether or not the art we make with them gets seen, but the art we make alone, the art we make with friends, the art that has a direct line to our communities, that is untouchable. And maybe a good thing that will come out of all this is us collectively figuring out how to make that a more sustainable way of living, so we don’t have to rely on business men to tell us whether or not we’re worthy of being seen.
I am no Taylor Swift, whose grudge // revenge music is world renowned, but I this is one of things I wrote about the whole experience, and it definitely helped release some of the vapor in this tea kettle.
See you next week, in the future, when we will be talking about the Ghost of Christmas Present.
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I needed this. As someone who had put much of themself into this ghost this was very cathartic. Thank you.
Your Tea Kettle poem! Damn! It reminds me of a twisted O Henry story... Also, as all the cute oysters are minutes away from their doom, I think it captures your mood quite well.