Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let It Snow!

This is a true story. It happened on December 6 of last year.

There is a show I do every year, a holiday party for military families. It takes place in a secure facility within a secure facility - it almost takes longer to get inside than to do the show! But once you're inside, you're in a fairy land of Christmas trees, lights, garlands and cotton "snow." Hundreds of children play games, color, eat popcorn and watch Christmas movies. There are face painters, balloon artists, clowns, costumed characters and elves - mostly volunteers. All this in
what is normally a loading dock.

Around 10:00 am, Santa arrives on a huge fire engine and holds court in the lobby. This is, by far, the most efficient Santa line I've ever seen. Every child gets plenty of time with the Big Guy, yet somehow the line keeps moving. At the end, the lilliputian petitioner has a bag of goodies and a picture with Santa.

During all this, I am doing close-up magic, "pulling" lights from the Christmas trees (the offices have a fierce tree decorating contest), making coins appear, and generally making fun.

Around noon, the 500 or so people line up and get lunch (which is fantastic) while I set up for my platform show. My holidays shows always have some different material, more if it's a repeat client.

This year, I planned to end with a classic Japanese piece, the "Snowstorm in China." This involves cutting tissue paper into a snowflake or other shape, tearing it up and immersing the pieces in water. The sodden pieces are squeezed out and fanned, and become dry confetti, which is fanned into the air and appears as snow.

It's a great piece, and with the right script and music, there's not a dry eye in the house.

It had not snowed yet that year, and so I ended my show by promising to add the one thing that was missing from that holiday season. The piece got a great response, especially from the kids, who rushed the stage to collect bits of the "magic snow" to take home.

As I was leaving the base gate, I had a wonderful view of the US Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Then I saw something else.

It was starting to snow!

Big fluffy flakes, like something out of a cartoon, coming down with purpose. I could hardly believe my eyes!

Then I thought of those kids going home from the party and seeing the snow - and their parents trying to explain for the hundredth time that it really WASN'T magic.

But maybe it was.

Then I remembered something that has had me chuckling ever since. Earlier that day, as I was entering the first gate,. a Marine corporal, bristling with armaments, greeted me. As he looked over my car, he made conversation. "So what do you do in your show?" he asked.

"I make it snow," I replied.

"No, really."


Now all I could picture was that Marine watching me leave the base - and then seeing the snow.

Sometimes things just come together. I live for moments like that.

Merry Christmas!

Eric Henning Magician