Despite being ill with horrible ears, and still being testy from not feeling well, I tempted fate and took Anna to see the Columbia City Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" today. This has become a yearly tradition for us - we dress in our Christmas finery and head off to the Koger Center to see the lovely ballerinas arabesque and pirouette their way through the classic Christmas tale.
It's a nice "mommy/daughter" thing to do - some quiet time to spend together just the two of us - and something I've come to treasure. It's rare these days that I have her all to myself without one or both of her younger siblings in tow - so I try to cherish the time we have - whether she's being sassy or not.
I like carrying on a tradition that I shared with my own mom - when I wasn't dancing in the Nutcracker (which I did for years and years) she and I were viewing it together - whether that be in Richland or Seattle or even Houston.
Today, though, it was just Anna and I. We had wonderful seats - three rows back from the front of the first balcony - and thankfully there weren't many seated near us so Anna had a clear view.
It's funny to see her progression of understanding/enjoyment of the ballet through the years. As a three year old she perched on her seat in the darkness, silent as a mouse, wide eyed, taking it all in. Only after the performance was over and we were home did she start to talk about all she had seen and experienced.
Last year, as a four year old, she was not so timid, not so frightened of the size of the theater, and actually talked during intermission. She was brave enough to want to meet some of the dancers following the show, but entirely too shy to ask for an autograph or a photograph, and when I suggested that we partake of the backstage tour - she vehemently shook her head "no."
This year, she had a full understanding of what the ballet was (not just the storyline but also what it means to be backstage and on the Koger Center stage - this is the auditorium where she danced in her yearly ballet recital.) She sat on the edge of her seat, "read" her program like a big girl, and eagerly awaited the darkening of the room and the curtain going up. She smiled and grinned and laughed - and talked (a lot) during the ballet - asking questions like "is that Clara?" "That Fritz is getting in trouble!" And commenting "Mommy, I like the girl in the pink dress the best." (really, who would have guessed that one...)
We took the backstage tour following the performance, where we got to see Clara's sleigh, sit in Clara's throne, see the Chinese rickshaw, the Rat Queen's head, and even the Nutcracker doll. Following that we met up with some of the dancers, and were lucky enough to take pictures (Anna was brave enough this year to ask for autographs and pose for photographs.)
Sitting on Clara's Throne
Marveling at Clara's Magical Sleigh
Meeting the star of the show, Clara herself!
Having one of the company dancers sign her program.
Posing with the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.
Meeting the beautiful Dew Drop Fairy.
It really was a lovely afternoon.
But, of course, it was also bittersweet. I looked at the auditorium around me and saw families - mothers and daughters and grandmothers. I wondered if the families I saw around me knew just how lucky they were to be sharing this experience together. I missed my mom with every fiber of my being. When the first strains of the overture started, I choked back the tears that had started to form - while reaching for Anna's hand. I leaned over to her and whispered in her ear that I was so happy to be doing this with her - just like I used to with Nonna.
She looked at me, her sweet face lit by the stage lights, and said "I love you too, Mommy" and leaned her little head into mine.
I think she's wise beyond her years.
And I am blessed.