Tuesday, December 17, 2013


If you are a parent, or grandparent, or an auntie or uncle... this is the season of endless rounds of holiday programs, seasonal school musical performances, and hand-written plays with kids wearing home-made costumes fashioned out of sheets or bathrobes or whatever could be found to transform a ten-year-old into a king or shepherd,  or a seven-year old into a teenage mother chosen by God, or a nine-year old into the startled father, or that six-year-old into an angel..

Ambitious productions might even use live-stock....or a live baby.

As a kid, I played the piano and the cello, so my parents suffered through a number of these musical event evenings.

I went to church and Sunday school, and so they suffered through several more programs with a cast of church children.

And I took dance lessons until I was four.
There was only  one performance that I remember with my dance school--The Nutcracker.
I remember because ... I ruined it.

What I recall is wearing a sparkling turquoise leotard. ( I still love the exact color of that leotard.)
I recall the many practices in the studio on a series of Saturdays.
I was the leader of a  line of other four-year-old girls.
They were supposed to follow me---whatever I did, they were supposed to do.

There was a simple toe out, step, more toes out something-or-other---simple choreography.

I also remember a rehearsal on the big stage on which we would perform the next night.

When the big night arrived, we lined up in the wings and as the music- duh duh-duh-duh duh duh duh,duh duh --The March by Tchaikovsky --began  and so did our line.

I lead the line of girls.
I had done this many times by now.
We had done this many times by now.

But this time something was very different.  In the middle of the stage sat a huge dragon.  Laughing and sneering at us. With a huge ugly mouth.  With bright colors that seemed ready to attack.

I  turned..... and ran.
So did the other girls.
They were supposed to do whatever I did.

In the wings I cried hysterically.
In the wings the line of little girls also cried hysterically.
There were supposed to do whatever I did.

The dance director urged my mother, commanded my mother to send me back out on stage.

My mother (my hero) refused!

This obviously ended my childhood dance career-- I did not take up dance again until I was grown.

One question has  rested quietly in the back of my mind about the entire event:
How did my little bit of dance routine fit into the entire performance?

This past Saturday I was able to put this memorable humiliation and ruination into context and perspective.

As I sat with my sister  in the second row of the loge at the Ohio Theater waiting for The Nutcracker to begin, I told her the above story  and also told her I wasn' t sure how this all fit in to the entire ballet.

Suddenly in the second act, the music started--duh, duh-duh-dud, duh duh duh--The March.
Entering the stage was a line of young children (Pages, they were labeled in the program)
Wow! So I had been a page!
I leaned over to my sister in delighted surprise. This is the same part!
But... where does the dragon come in?
Two seconds later--- enter a  huge colorful dragon.

My monumental stage failure had occurred during the celebration in the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy, as all the inhabitants had jubilantly danced and welcomed Clara and her prince.
My memory now fits in a convenient pocket -- in a legitimate position within the ballet.

The Nutcracker signifies the holiday season in our city.  We have a production  yearly.
For some families, attending is a tradition.
The theater was full of little boys and girls dressed in Sunday best, ballet-best, ready to enter into this magical world brought to life by Herr Drosselmeyer.

You can bring  some of that magic into your own home with the  classic version, Nutcracker illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Susan Jeffers includes a text appropriate for younger children and positions ballet front and center in her beautifully illustrated version of The Nutcracker.

Do you want to remember?
Do you want to again watch the magic and visit the land of the Sugar Plum Fairies?

Two classic videos will transport you to that land.


In the meantime  pay careful attention to any nutcrackers that you may encounter this holiday season.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

What holiday event or experience brings back memories for you? 
What holiday fairy tale evokes strong feelings and connections for you?  

These memories may be positive or negative.  They may be complete and accurate---or partial and unclear.

Write about your memory, attempting to put it in context of your adult life.
How did the event or experience affect you then? How does it affect you now?

You may write a personal. narrative, essay or poem to capture your memory and relate feelings.

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