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few loose kibbles left over from a dog’s breakfast. A small table supported a folded newspaper and vintage Tupperware salt and pepper shakers. I pulled out a rickety wooden chair and sat down at the table.
His fur was plush and green — the same color as the moss that grows at the base of the trees in the woods behind my house or the green shag carpeting of the Seventies. His bloodshot eyes were as big as saucers and as red as rubies. The Grinch’s lips were naturally curved downward in a perpetual frown that made me a bit uneasy. A heavy, almost unbearable musky smell that emanated from his body made me feel like I might be sick to my stomach.
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Grinch,” I uttered. “Is that how I should address you? Mr. Grinch?”
“Greg,” he corrected. “Greg?” I asked. “My name is Gregory. I prefer to be called, ‘Greg.’” “So, your legal name is Gregory Grinch?” I asked.
“No. Gregory is my name. Grinch is my species,” he answered quickly.
“Oh. Are there others like you?” I followed up.
“Yes, there are a few Grinches left in the world,” he said. “We are as elusive as the proverbial Bigfoot creatures, but we do exist. As you can see, we Grinches are primates with large, complex brains. We walk upright on two legs, much like you humans.” Greg — the Grinch — was well spoken, intelligent, and articulate, and I was a little surprised. “Okay, Greg, let’s start from the beginning with a little biographical information. Where and when were you born?” He answered without blinking. “Here. 1904.”
“Here, in this cave?” I asked to clarify his answer.
“Yes.” I quickly performed the math in my head.
“So, you are about 117 years old?” He nodded.
“What’s the typical lifespan of Grinches?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“Do you remember your parents?” I asked.
“Yes, and they are still alive and well and living their best lives in the Florida panhandle,” he said. “My mother wasn’t a fan of the cold, snowy winters here. She convinced my father to move to a cavern near Mariana, Florida, when I was about twenty years old, and I chose to stay here in the family cave.”
The creature pushed himself up and walked over to the counter to retrieve something. He returned seconds later and handed me a framed photo of two graying Grinch-like beings with the words, “Thinking of you,” embossed at the bottom of the photo.
“I hear from them a few times each year,” he said. “Last week, I got a package from them filled with five pounds of fresh pecans from an orchard in northern Florida. They were so good. I couldn’t stop eating them. Sometimes they send oranges. In the summers, they often ship me a box of Georgia peaches. Sometimes we do FaceTime video calls, but sometimes my Internet and cell service don’t work so well up here, and the truth is that none of us are great at using technology. But we are like other families. We do our best to keep in touch.”
“Aren’t you lonely living up here all by yourself?”
“No,” he said calmly. “I prefer to live alone. Well, I don’t really live alone if you count my dog, Max.”
I shook my head and skipped ahead to my main questions. “So, I’d like to travel back in time to 1957, to that Christmas. I’ve read Dr. Seuss’s book and of course, I’ve watched the television special forty or fifty times, but in your own words, can you tell me what happened that year?” I asked. “That was a very bad year for me,” he said. “I take full responsibility for my misbehavior and anger that year.” He got a far-away look in his eye and began. “That was the year that everything went wrong for me,” he said. “Mentally, I just wasn’t in a good place, you know? I wasn’t sleeping well. I could fall asleep, but then I’d wake up around 1 a.m. and I was wide awake. No matter what I did, I couldn’t go back to sleep. And then the next day, I was worthless. I walked around tired and zombie-like and couldn’t get anything done around here. The insomnia made me cranky and ill all the time. I felt like I was going crazy, and I guess, I was.”
“I had picked up about thirty extra pounds, and the extra weight caused my knees and feet to hurt all the time,” he continued. “I was popping a lot of aspirins and rubbing Ben-Gay cream on my joints two or three times a day, and still, the pain wouldn’t stop.”
Greg’s doctor suggested he lose weight.
“He warned me that I was prediabetic and that I could probably reverse it by changing my diet and dropping some of the weight. I tried to diet, and I felt like I was starving to death. I was hungry and angry all the time, or should I say, I was ‘hangry.’” He told me that one day while he was out foraging for food, someone stole his television — one of his only sources of entertainment.
“I had convinced Who-ville EMC to run a single line of power up to my cave,” he remembered. “The TV was small and didn’t have the best reception even when I manually turned my antenna, but still, I quickly became addicted to watching Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and the Ed Sullivan Show. Then one day, the TV was gone, and I just lost my mind.” It was December and the days were cold and short and it got dark early. Greg the Grinch was in pain, sleep deprived, bored, and mad at the entire world.
“Seuss speculated that it could have been because my head wasn’t screwed on just right, or that my shoes were too tight, or that it was because my heart was two sizes too small. None of that was why I was so angry that year.” He explained to me that the Whos are a rambunctious bunch of villagers, and that year, he became obsessed with and bothered by them. “They were early risers — still are,” he said. “They got up and started making so much noise every day — like a neighbor who gets up and cuts his grass and cranks up the blower right outside of your window on Saturdays when you are trying to sleep late. I wasn’t getting much sleep anyway, due to insomnia, and so their noisy lifestyle really got under my skin that year. And I knew that Christmas was going to be over the top. There would be singing, and clapping, and yelling, and horns, and bells, and whistles, and drums, and all sorts of racket.” It was then that he had the idea of stealing Christmas from the Whos to silence them, and he admits that it wasn’t his most shining moment. “Well, it is what it is,” he said. “I can’t go back and change what I did. I snuck down there under the cloak of darkness on Christmas Eve and took everything from the Whos while they slept. I made my dog help me, even though he was an unwilling participant. We stole it all and loaded the sleigh with the Whos’ trinkets, toys, tinsel, trees, tarts, tuna, toast and other tasty food items. Again, I’m not proud of what I did that night.”
The next morning, as the sun rose and the Whos discovered their homes had been ransacked, the Grinch expected to hear sobs of sadness and despair. Seuss wrote: They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two. Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOOHOO!
But that’s not what happened. The Whos celebrated. Seuss described it like this:
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!
“I couldn’t believe it,” Greg the Grinch relayed. “It blew me away. They were so happy without all the stuff. It still gives me goosebumps when I think back about that morning. It took me three hours to process it all.”
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.” “Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”
“I knew I had to make it right,” he told me. “Max and I turned that sleigh around and took all of the stuff we stole back down the mountain to the Whos. I apologized to all of them. I bet I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ five hundred times that day, but those Whos forgave me without a second thought. Can you believe that? They forgave me! They even invited me to spend the rest of the day with them and eat at their table. They treated me like family — no, they treated me better than family.”
The Whos gave Greg the Grinch the honor of carving their Roast Beast, which he noted was particularly scrumptious flavored lightly with just enough cumin and cayenne pepper to make his mouth water. “It was the best day ever,” he said. “I went from a very dark, low spot in my life, to a very happy place — all in twenty-four hours. It truly changed me forever.” He paused and I noticed that his eyes had welled with tears. He wiped them away with his furry green hand. “Can you elaborate a little more on your revelation that day? What exactly did you learn?” I asked.
“Christmas is not about shopping, material things, decorations, food, or parties. It’s so much deeper than that. Aside from the fact that it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas is a state of mind built upon love, gratitude, and goodness. And when the Whos asked me to join their feast, I realized that kindness and love can repair even the most broken of things and people, and when all is said and done, generosity and forgiveness embody the very essence of the season. It was a light bulb moment for me. If you step outside of all the hustle and bustle of the season, you can actually feel the true spirit of Christmas moving inside you.” I jotted down every word he said. Greg the Grinch admitted that he attended a few anger management classes between 1957 and 1959, and that he learned valuable coping skills that help him stay in control. Today, he meditates and does yoga four times a week. He’s dropped a few pounds but says that keeping it off is a daily struggle. And he says that he uses the Calm app to get a restful night’s sleep. “Do you still spend Christmas with the Whos in Who-ville?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Max and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Each year, they welcome us with open arms and open hearts. The food is phenomenal, and the fellowship and conversation are delightful, just as long as we steer clear of Biden, Trump and other hot-button political topics. And since the feast is held outside, we even gathered last year during COVID, but we sat six feet apart from one another.”
“And what about little Cindy-Lou Who, the sweet toddler that got up that night and caught you stealing everything out of her house? Do you still keep in touch with her?” I asked. “I do,” he said, beaming with pride. “She grew up, went to college, and became a therapist specializing in treating military service members who struggle with PTSD. She married another Who and they have fifteen amazing children. They named their youngest son after me. He’s my God-child, and he’s all grown up now. He came by a few weeks ago and hooked me up with Netflix, Hulu, and something else. Now I can watch reruns of M*A*S*H, Frasier, and all my favorite television shows. Well, I’m still learning how to do it, but I think it’s great!” Despite the perpetual scowl on the Grinch’s face, I found Greg to be quite pleasant and friendly, and I thought about the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I was caught off guard by his openness and his deep desire to share his story hoping it may help others — others who are having a bad year and are taking it out on people close to them; others who need help managing their anger or depression; others who have denied people of forgiveness; others who don’t believe that people can change; others who have lost sight of the true beauty of Christmas. I think the Grinch’s story offers many lessons. “I think after Seuss’s book came out, people thought the story was about the ultimate bad guy, but I think they misunderstood its meaning,” he said. “The main theme of the story is that I experienced a major transformation. Sure, I was mean, angry, and did a horrible thing, but that part of my life is over and done. I’ve put it behind me and moved on.” He leaned in close to me and pierced me with his gaze. “I don’t want to be known as the villain. I want to be known as the creature that changed — and changed for the better. That’s the big takeaway of the story — that people can change, and it’s never too late. Never.” A few minutes later, I found myself hiking back to civilization and thinking about everything Greg the Grinch had told me. His is a story of metamorphosis and transcendence — a feel good story with a happy ending. If Dr. Seuss were alive today, I would appeal to him to change the title of his book. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” just doesn’t seem to fit any more now that I know the full story. Indeed, I’d encourage Seuss to rename it, “How the Grinch Found Christmas!” I think Greg the Grinch would approve. Don’t you?