My daughter Tori performed in The Nutcracker every Christmas starting when she was just 5 years old. That first year she was an angel and I still remember the beginning of what became an annual tradition in our house. It wasn’t Christmas until I was driving my little ballerina back and forth to auditions, rehearsals and finally the actual performances.
Auditions began in October and every year there was a coveted role that she just had to have. After her 1st performance as an angel she was thrilled to nail the role of the “white mouse” the following year. I still have a white mouse ornament that I bought that Christmas and my stomach does a little flip flop every year when I pull it out and place it on my Christmas tree. Her favorite role as a young child was as one of the party children in the drawing room scene. I can still see her dancing around the parlor with a head full of bouncing ringlets, grinning from ear to ear.
In later years when she was “en pointe” (her little feet crammed into tortuous toe shoes), the roles progressed to Reed Pipe, Waltz of the Flowers and my all time favorite, The Dance of The Snow Queen with her shimmering little Snowflakes. I still remember sitting in the audience with the hair standing up on my arms and tears in my eyes watching those beautiful girls glide across the stage with the snowflakes falling from the rafters. I will never, ever forget how proud I was of my daughter.
Then there was the year that Mrs. Tuzer allowed the dancers to greet audience members in the lobby after a special charity performance. I stood back in the corner and watched Tori signing her “autograph” for star struck young girls who wanted nothing more than to touch the glistening tutu’s that they were seeing up close for the very first time. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it now.
And there were many years that I worked the bake sales and volunteered as a room mother, always careful to apply makeup with careful precision, glue on eyelashes and slick ballerina hair with vats of Dippity Doo until I was sure that not a single hair would move an inch. I spent hours sewing ribbons on pointe shoes, coating foot blisters with gel pads and making endless trips to the dance store for yet another pair of fresh tights. I loved every single minute of it.
There were many rituals that started over the 12 years that Tori danced in The Nutcracker. For the first few years when she was still little we had a tradition of going to The Crescent Hotel in Dallas for “Afternoon Tea”after the Saturday matinee performance. And only the two of us knew our special route home at night that took us through our favorite Christmas light displays. We played endless hours of Christmas music in the car as we drove back and forth from Richardson to Dallas and I always wired a Christmas wreath to the front of my minivan just to make sure we were properly festive.
And, I’m not ashamed to admit that yes, I had not one but several “Christmas Sweaters”. I can’t believe I’m even saying that. In my defense, it was the fashionable thing to wear if you were a suburban mom like me. The practice of wearing Christmas garb was horrifyingly acceptable. I can still close my eyes and see us screaming down Central Expressway looking like Christmas on steroids.
My mother was there to see her granddaughter perform each and every year until we lost her to breast cancer in 2002. She would always arrive in Dallas with a special gift for Tori to commemorate the event. This year Tori is too far away to accompany me to The Nutcracker, she won’t be home from Hawaii until late December. But her sister is coming home this weekend and Jacqueline will be my date this Sunday afternoon. I can hardly wait! We will play my Tchaikovsky CD in the car and listen to it the entire way there. It won’t really be Christmas until I see The Sugar Plum Fairy in her exquisite pink tutu. And although I will definitely dress up just a tad, I will spare the world of any further Christmas attire. It’s very fortunate that I gave up those Christmas sweaters along with my shoulder pads and Keds tennis shoes.
It’s not too late to get your tickets! If you’re lucky enough to have a little girl in your life, take her to the ballet this year and make some memories that will last a life time.
Merry Christmas everyone,