Yesterday I took my two granddaughters, Lizzie and Meghan, aged 12 and 9 to the Nutcracker Ballet in San Francisco. It's a tradition that started when Lizzie had just turned three. The other grandmother and I splurged for the front row of the orchestra stalls. She was entranced by the whole thing, peering down into the orchestra pit and waving at the players as they warmed up. When the music turned scary, she hid under her seat. When we got home she re-danced the whole ballet for us--we especially loved the mouse king dying and her version of the Russian dance!
We've been every year since, adding sibling Meghan when she was old enough. I keep expecting them to tell me they are now too old for such childish pleasures but they still seem to love getting dressed up in party dresses. And I have to confess that I still feel the magic too. All those adorable little girls dressed in their Christmas finery and wishing they were Clara. And that haunting music. And the glorious ballet of the real adult dancers--the pas de deux and the Russian dancers! And the excited children in the audience, really into the story--there was a collective gasp when the first mouse appeared, and when Clara magically turned into a princess.
But this year I found strange thoughts creeping in. I could suddenly see the brother Fritz's point of view. Everyone favored Clara. She was given the toy. He wasn't. He was always scolded. No wonder he tried to snatch it away from her. And during the interval that is exactly what my granddaughters said. The psychology of the Nutcracker!
Another thought always goes through my head as I watch Clara dancing. I am back at ballet school, aged 11, which I guess is about Clara's age. And I have grown too tall. When a ballet is cast my friends are the wood sprites and I.... am a tree. I kid you not. I was a tree in the fricking ballet. I dropped out soon after, not wishing to spend my life as a tree/flagpole/giraffe in subsequent ballets. So I stare at that stage and think "I would never have been Clara."