Barbara Escher fell in love with Christmas - and especially the Christmas tree - at an early age. In her house, the children did not see the tree until Christmas morning. In fact, its appearance was the sure sign that the big day had arrived.
One year, Barbara and her younger brother awakened long before dawn on Christmas morning and were twitching with excitement. They could hardly keep themselves from running downstairs to see if the tree was in place. But their parents were still asleep, and there was A RULE. And the rule said, "You cannot set foot on the stairs until Mom and Dad are awake."
Imagine two children bouncing off the walls trying to peek down the stairs to see if the tree was there.
Eventually, it was just too much. Barbara was a problem solver even at the age of six, and after some serious thinking, she quietly lay flat on her belly at the top of the stairway, grasped her younger brother by the ankles, and carefully lowered him down the steps until he could see the tree. Eureka!! There it was!! Lucky for him, she didn't just let go in her excitement but hoisted him back up so they could awaken their parents with the great news that Christmas had arrived.
Understanding the difference between the "letter of the law" and the "spirit of the law" was not something they were going to bring up that Christmas morning. But they laughed about the story for years to come, especially years later when the "little brother" was a very tall man, and the thought of lowering him down a flight of stairs was a funny memory for both of them.
Barbara's story began in Philadelphia, the land of soft pretzels, Independence Hall, and trips to the beaches of the New Jersey shore. Even when she wasn’t very old herself, she was surrounded by younger children as she sat on the beach and used sandcastles to create tales of magical children who looked just like her little friends! Freckled, sunburned, and covered with Coppertone.
Philadelphia was also the home of a historic department store where a giant Christmas tree changed colors in time to organ music while children (like Barbara) craned their necks in wonder. (Philadelphians will know that the beloved Wanamaker store is no longer there, but the tradition that began in 1956 continues with the Macy's Holiday Light Show.)
A BORN STORYTELLER
Barbara often invited children to come in and read books with her or sing silly songs at the piano (especially Christmas songs!). She dreamed of being a teacher one day and practiced on every child in the neighborhood at every opportunity! And after a lot of studying and hard work, she became a teacher, just as she had hoped.
Today, when people ask how she went from teaching children to helping businesses tell their stories to making a child come to life in a children’s book, she says that storytelling is at the heart of everything she has ever done. Bringing something to life – whether it’s a business or a stuffed rabbit - requires a story. And telling stories is what Barbara loves to do.
Today, Barbara lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband Joe Merkt and Hope, their crazy Havanese dog. Tampa is less than an hour from the Gulf beaches, so she can still watch kids build sandcastles and dip her toes in the waves when she isn’t writing. She sings in a church choir and LOVES spending time with her children, grandchildren, and grand-pets (three dogs, three cats, and a turtle named Michelangelo).
READERS GROW UP TO BE WRITERS!
When she was a little girl, Barbara read every book she could get her hands on from the Betsy-Tacy stories to all-time-favorite Nancy Drew. Her children loved books too, from The Cat in the Hat to The Lord of the Rings. Today, if you came to visit Barbara, you would see that she still has a book open in every room of the house!
And at Christmas time, Barbara's tree occupies a place of importance. Along with pictures of stockings, reindeer, and a Christmas angel. You can read about Barbara's hopes and goals for The Girl Who Found Christmas in a blog post!
Barbara’s next book will follow her heroine, Belinda, on a new adventure. Visit RedMittenBooks.com for more information.