By Anna Fisher, Associate Artistic Director, Emerald Coast Theatre Company
In my hazy childhood recollections, there’s one Christmas memory that is a little more clear than the others. It was 1980, and five year old me had requested what, in my mind, was quite an unachievable Christmas list: a dollhouse with tiny furniture, pink ballet shoes with a fancy carrying case (Barbie if possible), and a Kermit the Frog plush with long velcro arms. Each one of these items in itself was a lofty hope, a faraway dream that perhaps with enough nice behavior might materialize on Christmas morning. I went to sleep on that eve with visions of Kermit dancing in my head, maybe even wearing those pink ballet shoes with the tiny elastic bows at the top.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that all three of those gifts–and more–were waiting for me the next morning: the pink ballet shoes and vinyl case that I know my Mom had to drive to Fort Walton to find, the Kermit plush and the sweet, two story dollhouse that my Dad had been building in secret for the past month. It was joy upon joy, and I remember spending hours that day and the days afterwards playing with each gift to my heart’s content. I even brought my pink ballet shoes for show and tell on that first school day back from Christmas break.
The gifts I treasure now are more intangible, and one of the greatest gifts I receive as an adult is realization. The most dynamic illustration of this is in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A timely visit from those Three Spirits is just the terrifying realization that Scrooge needs to turn his life around. What feels like a nightmarish inventory of his life becomes the Christmas gift that he didn’t know he needed. The realization that the most wonderful parts of life don’t carry a price tag, that time with your family and friends is more precious than gold, and that life is short and each moment is a gift in itself. One of the gifts of becoming older and wiser is that we often come to these realizations through the spirits of experience and circumstance, which hopefully land more gently than Scrooge’s visitations.
When I think back upon that glorious Christmas morning full of so many beautiful things, it’s not the pink ballet shoes or the dollhouse that I remember the most. It’s the feeling that I was special and loved and important to my family. That feeling is why we give gifts to the people we love, and put so much care and effort into choosing and wrapping and situating it just so under the tree. Once we come to this gift of realization, we understand, just as Scrooge does, that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
My grown up Christmas list now looks much more like the eponymous song, with wishes like world peace, kindness and unity. It feels like any wish is possible during the holiday season when the air becomes electric with that almost textured magical quality. If I was to define that feeling I would say it comes from all of us being a little more generous and a little more hopeful.
It’s the feeling I know you’ll have when you come to see any of our holiday shows at Emerald Coast Theatre Company this season. In addition to A Christmas Carol, our talented Junior Company teens are performing Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. We are also offering A Jingle Jangle Christmas musical revue, complete with all of the warmest holiday classics.
There’s a little bit of that magic sprinkled into each of these shows and each one is a gift of shared experiences with family and friends. I hope you’ll take a moment to spend with us in real time this holiday season, because one of our greatest realizations is that you are the heart of ECTC.