Anna and I have enjoyed seeing the Nutcracker together since she was just three-years old. Even at that tender age, the swirling colors and twirling dancers captivated and mesmerized her, keeping her still and perched at the edge of her seat from the moment the curtains opened until the moment they closed. It's always been a special time we've shared, mother and daughter, when I've kept thoughts and memories of my own mother close at heart.
Mom and I always saw the Nutcracker together. Every year, without fail. If we were in the same city at the same time as a production was available, we would enjoy the familiar story together. It was one of our 'things.' Probably stemming from the years and years that I danced in the Nutcracker as a child in my hometown, and the years and years that my mom applied stage makeup, dippity-do to my hair, and heard my constant bemoaning of never being cast as a child, let alone the coveted role of Clara.
So 'Nutcracker' day is a day I constantly struggle with. On one hand, I'm happy to be sharing this special time with my daughter. To create the memories that I hope she will carry with her throughout her life. But on the other, I am incredibly sad. I want to see it with my own mom. I want to reach over to hold her hand when the Overture begins, to feel our fingers lace together, where it becomes impossible to see where one hand ends and one hand begins, like we did every time we saw it together.
This year, things changed a bit. James has been dying to go, and last year had his feelings hurt that he didn't get to participate. But he's a very different child than Anna - where she will sit still and quiet as a mouse, taking everything in, processing it to the extreme detail - James will not. He will ask a gazillion questions, he will wonder how things happened, and why, and sitting still? Well that is a huge challenge for this boy.
So it may seem crazy that I purchased him a ticket as well, knowing full well that it could be a very difficult show - trying to keep him still. I rationalized that because this particular ballet is fast moving, tells a clear story, and is full of bright colors and short dances, he would probably do okay.
So off we went, but not before posing for some pictures - Anna sporting her favorite (read: wear without argument Matilda Jane dress) and James his new bow tie.
But even when posing for pretty pictures - silliness ensues...
One more, and we were off.
I'm not sure if I set my expectations too low (in the back of my mind fully expecting to have to call Deonne to come retrieve James at some point), but I'm happy to report that James did just fine. Of course there were moments when he lost interest, mainly during the longer dance scenes (like the dance of the snowflakes.) But he busied himself by figureing out where the snow was coming from (we were close enough in the orchestra section that he could see the mechanical arm that was sprinkling snow.) Or the waltz of the flowers, where he kept busy by counting flowers, and eventually the stage lights. And of course he wouldn't be James if he didn't ask his gazillion questions, loudly, because James has two volumes (asleep and LOUD), like when the Arabian prince came on to charm the princess out of the snake basket and he asked 'why he doesn't have a shirt on?'
It was a lovely time.
I admittedly got choked up, like I do every year, when the first strains of the Overture started, when I could feel my hand somehow searching for my mother's. And again when the Snow Queen started her pas de deux with her King, mom and I's favorite part of the entire ballet.
But I just held James tighter in my lap (he could see better from my seat than his own), and buried my tears in his sweater. And while I'm not sure he knew if I was crying or not, he just quietly patted my hand, and leaned his head against my shoulder.
After the performance (which was AMAZING yet again - I seriously don't know how it can get better and better every year) we took the backstage tour, allowing the children to see and touch (good for James) the props and things used in the show.)
|The Cannon - |
used by the soldiers to shoot cheese at the mice during the fight scene.
|Clara's Royal Throne|
|The Magical Tree That Grows|
|It's such a big tree!|
|The lovely Clara!|
|The Sugarplum Fairy|
|The Arabian Dancers|
and yes...James did ask the prince why he didn't have a shirt on - to which the prince
promptly replied 'because it is hot in Arabia.' Awesome.
|Always a favorite - the Chinese dancer!|
|Candy Canes and Flowers|
It was a really nice time. I loved sharing this special ballet with my children, making memories for them, while holding my mom close to my heart.