The last time I saw The Nutcracker was December of 2007. I was delighted with the production, and it unexpectedly brought back memories, which I blogged about at the time. Here’s what I wrote:
…I recollected a part of myself yesterday afternoon, while sitting in a darkened theater watching a splendid production of the ballet, The Nutcracker. An especially lovely segment screamed for applause, and I began it…and there she was. Right beside me, grinning with delight at the magic of the performance and with satisfaction at being “old trigger wrist”–her cupped hands like gunshots echoing. Mom. Except of course she wasn’t there, couldn’t be there.
The ballet continued, and I mentally compared these sets, these costumes with others I’ve seen. There’s no one to talk with about this later over milk and cookies. Nobody with the same frame of reference. Not a single soul who will grip my hand and fight back tears when the tree grows, the nutcracker comes the life, it begins to snow. And yet she’s there, at my elbow, enjoying the whole thing.
How very odd is memory. I went with great anticipation to see something fresh, something I haven’t seen in over 20 years. It’s not that I didn’t think of Mom–who else would I so strongly connect with ballet? But I didn’t expect to be recalled so loudly to a bit of me I’d lost. There is a preciousness in the re-connection that takes you by surprise, something you didn’t expect to ever retrieve. Going to the ballet with my mother, that lovely annual rite of December, was packed away in the attic of my mind. Lovely to shake out the folds and try that gown again, and find it fits–it just hangs differently now.
For the past several years I’ve been attending ballet performances with a good friend from high school. More precisely, she was a good acquaintance back then, at a school I only attended for a year. We were brought together a few years ago by a very good mutual friend, and by the fact that we’d both lost our moms in the space of a year or so.
The ballet company we go to see, The New American Youth Ballet, is where two of my surrogate nieces dance. This year they both have featured roles in the NAYB’s first-ever production of The Nutcracker. I haven’t seen this ballet in five years, so I’m more enthusiastic than usual about going.
It doesn’t strike me until the day of the performance: The Nutcracker was in fact the first live performance of anything that I was taken to see. We moved to Fort Wayne from a very small town in upstate New York in the fall of 1970. That December, Mom and Dad took me to see the Fort Wayne Ballet’s production. And it just so happens that it was performed in the very theater where I am now sitting to see the NAYB version. We’re even sitting in the same part of the massive theater. I remember being quite overwhelmed by the sheer size of the auditorium back then. Truthfully, it’s still an enormous space. I don’t recall anything else about that 42-years-ago ballet except that I was enchanted. I was delighted by this one, too–in its own right, and because I am so proud of Marie and Grace. They’ve matured so nicely in their talent. I’m also proud of the achievements of this small ballet company. They performed a simple, tasteful and beautifully danced production.
I didn’t have quite such a dramatic “full-circle” kind of feeling about this production as I did five years ago. But it felt good to be there, and now I can imagine the day coming when I’ll either be taking my granddaughter Lucy to see a ballet there…or I’ll be watching her dance in it. That will certainly be a “pinch me” moment.