Now that my kids are getting older, my wife and I are excited to share some Christmas traditions with them, like decorating the tree, driving around to see the lights, and watching “A Christmas Story” over and over again until you can recite the entire movie. Backwards.
This year we started a brand-new tradition by taking my daughter and my niece to see “The Nutcracker.”
The basic plot of “The Nutcracker” is a little hard to follow. I know that there’s this scary magician uncle guy who comes to a Christmas party bearing gifts, one of which is a nutcracker. Oh joy. But after that it all gets a little fuzzy. By the time the giant Nutcracker was dueling it out with the dreaded Mouse King, I wondered if the original author of the story might have been snacking on mushrooms while he wrote it.
During the intermission I got in line to buy a bottle of water for my wife and, inevitably, bought two glasses of wine as well. I had already paid when I realized that I wasn’t permitted to bring the drinks back to my seat. Apparently the Benedum Center is aware of my wine-spilling tendencies. For a moment I considered chugging both glasses rather than abandoning them. Classy. But then I saw a sign that said you were allowed to bring drinks into the show as long as you purchased a plastic sippy cup for $3 dollars. Crisis averted.
At one point during the second act, a merry-go-round-like contraption descended from the top of the stage and a bunch of kids came out riding what were supposed to be carousel horses. Magically, the toy horses and their riders glided around the stage in perfect unison. As I sat there, sipping cabernet through a plastic straw, I pondered this mystery. Maybe there were giant magnets under the stage pulling the horses along? Maybe they were remote controlled? It took a while, but I finally realized that the riders’ legs were actually inside the horses and not on the outside as they appeared to be.
Give me a break. It was dark in there.
Every once in a while during the show, I’d peer over at my daughter, who seemed happily entranced by the production. At one point, though, she asked if it was dark outside, concerned that her bedtime might be soon approaching. “Not in the movies,” she said. “I mean in the REAL outside?” I took another sip of wine, happy that I wasn’t the only confused member of my family.
I’m not sure why I enjoy “The Nutcracker” so, considering the many years agonized through my sisters’ ballet practices and recitals. But sitting there with three of my favorite girls at my side, listening to the soothing notes of the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, I couldn’t help but feel totally at ease and filled with the Christmas spirit.
I also couldn’t help but think about Tetris.
Following the show we had dinner across the street at a popular Italian restaurant, which, according to the many photos on the wall, had been patronized by such luminaries as TV weatherman Kevin Benson, Barney the purple dinosaur, Robert Goulet, and amusement park tycoon Roy Walley. “Just think,” I said, enjoying a plate of bowties in meat sauce, “this very fork may have been inside Barney’s mouth!” It was a real possibility.
Watching my niece and daughter get lost in that magical tale of Christmases past reminded me of what the holiday season is really all about, and I’m hoping that “The Nutcracker” can be a cherished family tradition for us for years to come.
Of course, from now on, I’ll bring my own sippy cup.
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