This past week I was asked to tell a story at my town’s Christmas celebration. I was nervous. The story I wanted to tell goes to a dark place before ending on a high note. I thought the kids and adults in the audience would prefer some Christmas magic instead. The shows producer, the extremely talented Jody Simpson, said matter-of-factly, “kids need to know that Bambi’s mother dies” and “this is no place for pablum.” As as artist, that direction itself was a bit of Christmas magic.
And so I told my story, a tale of family heartbreak and redemption that hangs on a cherished Christmas ornament my father made me, the Tricia Ball.
Not surprisingly, there was a particular way we were to decorate our Christmas tree. We always bought a 9-10 foot Douglas Fir. On our Christmas lights, we used reflectors — silver tin foil, shaped like stars with colored inserts, that went behind each Christmas light. Reflectors were supposed to make the Christmas lights glow more, and we used the large colored Christmas lights you don’t see much these days — red, green, blue, and sort of an orangey-yellow, maybe some white. We’d match each reflector with the bulb, place it over the socket and methodically screw in each Christmas light one by one, in a long string of lights. We paid the same kind of attention to the rest of the tree. We had decorative fake birds, and Daddy instructed us to adjust the bird wings so they would look like they were in proper flight. Tinsel was placed, never tossed. It was like we were preparing an altar and the most sacred elements of all were the Debbie Ball, the Jimmy Ball, and the Tricia Ball.
Many people greeted me after the show with their own tales of family heartbreak and redemption, of enduring Christmas memories and traditions. One woman told me my story was about a Christmas miracle and that this year she was waiting on a miracle, confident it would come. That’s what storytelling does. Storytelling makes people feel safe enough to share their own stories — their own dramas and dreams — and I was extremely honored to be part of that Christmas magic.
To read the full story of the Tricia Ball, click here. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season!