December 10, 2012

An afternoon at the ballet

The holiday season is already in full swing and I find myself with too little time and so much to do. Between working at the restaurant, trying to see friends and family, baking, taking care of a very active toddler and trying to find some time to write, it's no wonder the holidays are a stressful time of year.  But this weekend was also packed with fun: a home tour in my awesome little neighborhood with friends last night and then today, an afternoon to remember.

I received a very sweet gift from my in-laws of two tickets to see The Nutcracker ballet for me and June. I'm not sure if they knew how special this is to me. One of my fondest holiday memories (and there are lots of them as my family loved Christmas) is of going to see this traditional holiday ballet with my mom every year at Christmastime. We would get dressed up (usually in matching outfits) and I would be so excited to be going somewhere with my pretty mom for the day. My mom was a big proponent of dance and culture in our lives and also loved Christmas. I don't remember, but it must have been in college when I stopped going to see the Nutcracker every year. Still whenever I hear that familiar music, I think of my mom.

Now that I have a little girl there is nothing I look forward to more than carrying on these traditions with her. June has been in a ballet phase for some time now. She loves ballerinas and dancing and has three or four tutus that she rotates through. Almost every night after dinner she tells her daddy to play his keyboard and she puts on a tutu or her pink "princess dress" and twirls around the living room for us. "Mommy, I'm dancing so beautifully," she said one night. I was surprised to hear her say that but then remembered that she loves to watch the show Angelina Ballerina -- a little British mouse who loves to dance. That may be why she has been saying things with a British accent lately, like when I ask her if she has to go potty, "Not at all," or if she wants a snack, "Of course I do."

In any case, it's clear that dancing is in her blood (I am secretly cheering and so is my mom) and she was eagerly awaiting this outing to the ballet for the last week or so. She took an earlier nap than usual since we were going to the 2:00 show and when she woke up her cheeks were red and she could hardly contain her excitement. I told her we'd be putting on our pretty clothes (my girl also loves to dress up) and I dressed her in a white sweater dress that my dad gave her for Christmas last year. She looked so cute.

On the way there she was full of questions: "Where is the Nutcracker?" "Are all these cars going to the Nutcracker too?"  The first thing we did was take a photo with the 'real' ballerina. June was a bit hesitant to stand next to her and looks a little scared in the photo, but those girls look a bit like aliens from close up so I can't really blame her.

We found our seats which I was relieved to see were close enough that she could see everything, upping our chances of being able to stay for the whole performance. When it started she immediately asked me where the music was coming from and it was hard for her to understand that the orchestra was playing live but the musicians were under the stage so we couldn't see them. Then she asked me where the "real ballerinas" were. The ballet is set in the 19th century and in the first scene the dancers had on regular clothes instead of tutus, which threw her off. Also, why are there a bunch of little boys and girls dressed like mice running around? She seemed confused.

But enter the Snow Queen and then later, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and all of the other wonderful costumes and scenery in the Land of Sweets and her mind was put at ease that I hadn't in fact lied about this being "ballet." She smiled and oohed and seemed really enthralled --at least for the first act. She got a little tired and squirmy by the end of the second act but was a trooper and we didn't even have to leave early.

It was a great day. I felt closer to my mom doing that with June. It is so hard not to have her here, especially at this time of year and especially now that I have a child of my own. I want to give June the same kinds of memories that I have of my mom. She is old enough to be excited about Christmas this year and I am so excited to be starting my own traditions with her just like I had with my mom. Last week we had fun decorating the Christmas tree and she loves the little tree I gave her for her room with the tiny little ornaments that used to be on my little tree in my room as a child. We baked cookies together last week and will do more of that in the coming weeks. And now, we have our little afternoon at the ballet. This is what the holidays are all about.