I was 6 years old. Our family of 6 had piled into the white minivan for the 13 hour drive from the Southern to Northern border of California, from San Diego all the way to Grandma and Grandpa Rowley’s house. This was Christmas vacation. I had survived 13 hours of my older brother putting his smelly feet on my head from the back seat. I had survived 13 hours of my 2 little sisters, fussing, crying and barfing. I had survived 13 hours of Kenny G music, winding roads and rest stop bathrooms, but it was all worth it, because Grandma and Grandpa Rowley live in one of the most magical places on earth. The small town of Willow Creek rests in the mountainous forests north of Humboldt county. The Trinity River flows beside it and rumors of Bigfoot sightings permeate local conversation.
It was Christmas eve. I had been forced to share my bed with my little sister. She was a restless sleeper, kicking me and stealing all the blankets. But I was too excited to sleep anyway. Santa was coming. I stared at the wall in front of my bed and dreamed about what toys he might bring me. A My Size Barbie was first on the list above a Pretty Pretty Princess board game and My Little Pony dolls. This was a few years before my tomboy phase and subsequent feminism. My siblings and I had made sure to prepare Grandma’s house with all the recommended offerings. Carrots for the reindeer, cookies and milk for Santa, laid out on the coffee table with a Christmas themed napkin right next to the notes that the children had written so that Santa could read them while enjoying his favorite snack. I lay in bed hoping Santa would not think I was too greedy with a list about 20 items long. I wanted to make sure he had options. I didn’t know if he would have what I was looking for in his sack. I worried that he would have trouble deciphering my hand writing. I had only recently learned to write and my spelling wasn’t very good. As I lay there, staring at the wall, trying to remember if “pretty” should be spelled with and “i” or and “e” the most incredible thing happened. Right in front of me, on the wall I was staring at, a shadow formed. The silent figures of 8 little reindeer flew past my view with Santa trailing behind in his sleigh.
A couple years later when I learned the truth about Santa, I protested, “But I saw him!” Well I saw his shadow anyway. Or did I? Was it a dream? Was I just delirious from the 13 hour drive? Was it the limitless imagination of a 6 year old girl? Could it have been the magic of the forest of Willow Creek? To this day I cannot explain what I saw. And I don’t really care too. To the 6 year old version of myself that Santa sighting was absolutely real. It was as real as the presents I opened the next morning. It was as real as the empty plate with nothing left but cookie crumbs and the empty glass with milk film rolling down the side. Santa exists because of Children. And Santa continues to exist as long as there are little ones that believe in him. That is the magic of the legend of Santa. The rehearsal process for Bearded has really reconnected me with this magic. And I am so delighted for our audiences to rediscover it with us!