Saturday, December 12, 2015

Nutcracker Dreams

The other night I opened up this lovely post by Kelle Hamtpon, about taking her daughters to see The Nutcracker. You should at least look at the photos even if you don’t read it.

It made my heart pound and my eyes water.

I have quite a lot of Nutcracker memories.

My mom used to take me. We would get dressed up and we’d go see dancing, and then I’d go home and practice ballet in my bedroom. One year we went with my aunt and her girls, and we watched their dad’s sister. I remember thinking her dance was my favorite but not knowing if saying that would make me nice or if it would make me seem weird and like I was lying to get on her good side. I don’t even know if I admitted to that or not, but it goes to show you that even when I was a little girl I was a little bit crazy.

Then one year the small dance studio I attended put on a modern dance rendition of The Nutcracker. I gleefully auditioned. I played a party girl, a ballroom dancer in the beginning scenes. I took dance classes at school and I took ballet and hip hop classes after school twice a week, and now spent half of most Saturdays in Nutcracker rehearsal. I had nice abs and could walk on the tips of my toes even barefoot. Now my entire body aches when I think back to those days.

One weekend my parents were out of town and I had to take a taxi cab to rehearsals. I felt very grown-up and New Yorky, until we pulled up to the studio and the fare was one dollar more than what I had been prepared to pay. All I had was an extra ten so I gave it to him as a tip and spent the rest of the day feeling bummed out. That $10 was hard to come by back then!

The next year I was working most nights and taking a college class two evenings a week so I just enjoyed The Nutcracker from the audience. My mom and I snickered when we saw that stethoscope she had loaned them for a funny little Mouse King bit. She had been very diligent in writing her name all over it and making sure everyone knew she wanted it back after the last performance. It had somehow been lost, but apparently not too lost.

Once during college I was pressured into playing Mother Ginger. I asked my mom if I should steal her stethoscope back but she laughed and said no. She wasn’t a CAN anymore any ways, but I had to ask.  

It was during finals and I worked full-time so it was one of the most stressful things I could have added to my plate. I did one performance, left to take a test, and came back to be helped into my costume again for the bow. The next night I left and drove to a coffee shop to finish editing my final paper because there were too many 13-year-old girls screaming Owl City’s Fireflies and then “SHHHHHH, IT’S RINGING! Oh em gee, I hope he doesn’t answer. What should I say!?” for me to concentrate.

Ryan told me after the performance he watched that I looked beautiful.

I asked him, “Did you watch it? You know I was the fat lady with 12 kids in her skirt, right?”

I do not think this was self-depreciating or difficulty to accept a compliment. He had to have been asleep or something. Nobody thinks Mother Ginger is beautiful. They mostly just shudder and cringe and glare at their own ovaries. Except maybe Michelle Duggar. If Michelle Duggar wrote me a letter telling me I made a beautiful Mother Ginger I would know she meant it from the bottom of her heart.

When I was pregnant with the toddler he took me to see it in our town’s gorgeous theater. I patted my belly the whole time we watched and wondered if that baby was a boy or a girl and if he or she would like seeing The Nutcracker with me every December.

Now I don’t go see it. Between Ryan’s work schedule and the busy demands of our sweet-but-crazy life, it just doesn’t really work. I know I could go watch it by myself but that feels a little too indulgent. And if I’m being honest, a little not-that-fun. I want to share it with someone!

This time next year, as long as he really seems ready to sit still and enjoy it, I think I’ll take my boy to see The Nutcracker. There’s a good chance he’ll find it too girly before very long at all so I have to take advantage of this possibly very-narrow window. And then, the year after that, I will take my own daughter to see The Nutcracker.

I will make a big deal about getting ready. We will spend too long fixing our hair and I will ask her to help me zip the zipper I am perfectly capable of zipping. Or maybe not—I will be two years older and another child flabbier.

We will go to lunch first or share a hot chocolate afterwards and we will start a tradition that we hopefully hang onto for many years.

She will watch the dancing and I will watch her face and we will both whisper, “Wow.”

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