One theme. One poet. One memoirist.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Nutcracker

Hey, readers.

Yes, we do have a blog. Unfortunately, it's been insanely hard to write lately with my impending thesis defense.

Hopefully we'll be able to pick back up now that my defense is on the horizon.


Our theme for this week: Joy

Christmas has always been a big deal in my immediate family. When we were younger my father had the most amazing ability to pick the coldest, snowiest day of December to go for the Christmas tree, which was always a family affair. We'd ride around together looking for the tallest, thickest fraiser fir we could find and then would hall the behemoth back home to put it up in the living room and decorate it. Mom always hung popcorn strings on her Christmas tree as a kid, so we would start stringing in November. Pa loves lights and would do justice to Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Thankfully, I've always been afraid of heights and a klutz, so I've been excused from the treacherous rooftop decorating duties.

Christmas always brought cookies and fudge. Hot chocolate and brandy. Christmas hats and off-key sing-a-longs in the kitchen. Christmas day brought a mountain of presents in the living room in the morning and all of my Prosen family cousins in the afternoon. Grandma in her Christmas sweaters. Good things to eat and Trivial Pursuit or Taboo after dinner. When I was much, much younger, Christmas brought a new dress from my Grandmother.

My favorite Christmas tradition, however, began on a whim. My aunt (a physical therapist/athletic trainer, I think) was working with the Milwaukee Ballet Company and they offered her two tickets to annual performance of The Nutcracker. For some reason unknown to me, Kathy gave them to my mom. Because ballet was a girl thing, Mom took me to it rather than my brothers.

We went for many years after that first one. I loved it. I loved getting dressed up and the ballerinas. I loved the music (and still do.) I loved the fantastical story line and the belief that my toys really could come to life. I loved the ginger ale and the cookies we shared at intermission. I loved the the brief pause my mother and I both treasured from constant talk of football and hunting and whatever other manly conversations were happening at home.

What I loved most, though, was the time with my mom. I miss it tremendously now that we've stopped going. What I want for Christmas this year is the chance to get dressed up together in our fancy clothes and spend an evening watching the dance progress and sharing a ginger ale in the lobby.

The Nutcracker

When I was small, my mother took me to watch the Milwaukee ballet company dance The Nutcracker. I had a new Christmas dress, an early gift from my grandmother. It was taffeta and rustled when I walked and when I shifted in my seat. Mom wore a second-hand velvet dress and my great-grandmother's fur coat. I thought she was the prettiest lady there. During the intermission she bought me a ginger ale and we shared an ice cream sundae. She told me she was proud of how I was behaving myself--I barely fidgeted at all. Then she gave me the cherry on the top of the sundae. When she asked me what I liked best about the show I told her it was dresses and the way the ballerinas twirled. We kept going for years, and she always asked the same question over the same sundae. Some years I liked the Nutcracker Prince best. Other years it dressing up, or people watching at intermission, the Christmas decorations in the lobby or the music. Now, at twenty-six I still love all of those things. But this year, when she asks me, I'll tell her it's her second-hand velvet, inherited fur, and the cherry she still saves for me.

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