Sunday, December 15, 2013

Real-world Magic and Holiday Idealism

I'm really not a cynic.

True, I tend to possess a certain sarcastic...something, and I will admit to seeing the practical and logistical side of life a little too much for my own good. December is traditionally a month where all the weird in the world tends to come after me with a crowbar, and I've had more loss during this month than I care to remember. Still, there are times when I do let my optimism and idealism see daylight. Case in point...

For a long, long time I did different sorts of event work, and I've moonlighted as an elf once or twice. One year, I was doing a one person show at a small venue, a kind of kid sing-along deal at a holiday extravaganza that a lot of communities throw between Thanksgiving and New Year's. We were getting okay crowds, but the night in question things were pretty light. I had taken my break to run across the venue and grab some much-needed hot chocolate (it was a cold year), and I'd tossed my parka on over my neon elf costume (long story short, I was decked out in more day-glo colors than a Christmas wreath in the eighties). I'd stopped by the petting zoo because admittedly I'm a bit of a softy at times, and heard a gasp behind me and turned to face a shocked little girl who probably was no more than seven or eight, maybe nine. I gave her a wave and a smile, plugged the next performance of the show to her group, and and went about my business, only half-paying attention when she ran up to her mother and started whispering to her.

Back at the show venue, I found the girl's little group of friends and chaperones coming in close behind me, probably following me since the signs were pretty sparse. I did a quick sound check and my tech helped cue everything up, and we began...

The show itself wasn't that structured - I routinely moved some things around if I felt things were dragging or if the crowd was getting restless. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was for the little girl to stand up in the middle of one of the ten thousand monologues I had to go through and ask "But why doesn't everyone believe in Santa Claus? Isn't he real? You're an elf, you can tell me yes or no!"

If you've never known the singular, brutal panic that comes with being asked a delicate question in front of one of the child's parents while you're supposed to stay on track and in character and there's no other actor in the show but you, well, it's a special kind of terror. Not only that, but days before I'd lost a family member that had been very dear to me and still hadn't quite come to grips with having to continue the gig through the holiday season while dealing with the loss...and now I had to somehow figure out what to tell this hopeful little girl without ticking her mother off, throwing the show completely off track, or a thousand other things.

My mind was vibrating while struggling for an answer, I was trying to intuit some sort of instruction on the mom's shocked face, and my tech was behind a Christmas tree and inaccessible. Who was I to tell this child what she should believe? Who was I to even know, in the scheme of life, what even I believed?

 It may not seem like much, believing in Santa, but I had the power in my answer to either crush dreams, keep a belief alive that may not be appreciated by all parties involved, or ignore the kid and just get on with things. From the anxious rustling of the Christmas tree and the embarrassed looks on the adult audience members' faces, the latter was what was expected. It would have been easy. It would have been somewhat permissible to play it off as having to keep with the show, despite the audience participation.

I couldn't do it.

It was almost a bizarre, out-of-body experience, but I found myself calling the kid up to the stage while I sat on the edge, bright pink tight-clad legs curled under the day-glo green skirt. Just as strangely, as I looked into her hopeful face, I found the answers I needed, myself. 

"You know, Santa's one of those funny things, like love and other things you can't see. Not everyone is going to say they believe in it because they're afraid of sounding silly, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You can't always see everything that's real with your eyes, you know. Sometimes you have to see things like that with your heart."

She processed that, nodded deep in her winter coat and piles of wrappings, and after a moment looked up at me with the kind of big, charming grin only a child can flash. "Then I'm gonna still believe in Santa Claus. You're an elf, you know what you're talking about!"

We sang some songs together and eventually I got back on track to the latter part of the show, but it didn't really matter if things went off the rails or not. In some ways, that was probably the best performance of the whole run.

Afterwards, I got many quiet compliments from a lot of adults hanging around. I found it hard to accept them, hard to express how important it was for me to speak as close to the truth as I could. The fact is, I may be an adult, and I may get how the world works, but if believing in Santa, or even the possibility of magic, the possibility of love, the possibility of goodness this time of year makes me happier....then I'm going to do it. I want to believe in goodness, in people, that things can get better. Besides, that little girl was as much of a magical elf to me as I was to her...that one evening pulled me even a little bit out of the darkness of grief I was surrounding by. By being able to make the holiday just a little better for that little girl, I was able to heal myself just a little, as well. The memory still makes me smile, and I've taken it out and examined it lovingly every year, just like I would any ornament or bauble I put up at home.

I don't always let it out in my daily life, but I like when I can let that same possibility and idealism out in my writing. Of all the pieces that I currently have published, Holly and Ivy is probably the most fanciful, the most optimistic, the most idealistic. There's some sadness, some loss, true, but winter brings those things...just as it brings us opportunities to make our own magic, just as it brings us closer to spring. 

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect,Ivy not only shares her strong opinions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keeping a promise to an old friend?

Plus, remember, when you buy Holly and Ivy (or Under the Mistletoe by Siobhan Kinkade) during the month of December, you can get a FREE copy of the e-book co-written by SH Roddey and I - Lost in the Shadows!

All you have to do to claim your book is email us ( after you buy it and tell us (a) which book you purchased, and (b) the next to last word of the story. Once you're confirmed, we'll send you your very own copy of Lost, free of charge, in either ePub or Mobi format, your choice. Sound like a deal?

1 comment: