I do have that great song from Fiddler on the Roof in my head...."Tradition! Tradition!....TRADITION!" thanks to my friend over at matthewswifey.blogspot.com Per Anna's suggestion, I am going to post one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
A little over a week ago, we (my mom, my sister, and I) took I & F to see the Nutcracker Ballet. It was a big deal for the three of us women, to be passing on one of our very favorite Christmas traditions. Was it a crazy idea? Of course! Was it a bad idea? Never! We got all of our Christmas finery put on, some emergency snack equipment (which would turn out to be a mistake) in the big leopard bag, and we braved the ice covered walkways in Sherman Hill.
Ever since I can remember, my parents have taken us to see the Nutcracker. We have seen many different ballet companies perform it, in many different cities, and as we have grown up with seeing the Nutcracker each year, and it is always the same in that the music, the story and the dancing just carries us away. It has also been different each year, with a twist on the story, a live orchestra in most places, the venue could be Hancher, or somewhere in Chicago or Denver, Clara and the Prince could fly away in a sleigh, be pushed on a sleigh, take off in a hot air balloon...sometimes they don't even leave. The props and scenery have been extremely elaborate all the way to barely there. I have been terrified or enchanted by Heir Drosselmeyer. Every year, it is something new but we always go with great anticipation.
I have missed the last couple of years (being pregnant and having small babies) but the first year that Husband and I were engaged, we went to see the Nutcracker at Hoyt Sherman in Des Moines. With all of the years watching professional ballet companies, namely the Joeffry Ballet, perform with exquisite precision, and most of the time listening to an official live symphony perform Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, I was slightly...OK I confess...I was greatly disappointed that year watching Ballet Des Moines. The company hired professional people to play the very important lead rolls like the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier, but the rest of the performers were young girls taking on (what I had always seen as) these huge roles as the Chocolate from Spain, the Coffee from Arabia, and many other rich and . The second act in the Land of the Sweets has always been my favorite, but I left that performance less than satiated. My expectations were snotty. I know it is because, I confess, am a Nutcracker snot!Even though this year was probably very similar to the year that Husband and I went, in my new role as a Mama, I was so impressed with the young ballet company performing all of the parts that I had always seen adults perform. Ballet Des Moines has grown with precision and poise, and I was teary eyed watching little baby mice and gingerbread babies come scurrying out on stage and hoping that one day my little babes could have a chance to at least try out. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Freud was standing next to me in line for the potty at intermission, and she said, "Can you imagine all of the kids that were cut during try outs?!" I immediately shot back at her, "Yes, and imagine all of the kids that wanted to try out, but didn't meet the requirements to even audition!" She looked at me puzzled, and I said, "I always dreamed of being in the Nutcracker, but I was always too tall, so I couldnt' even try out." She just said, "Ohhhh." In some creepy, cleansing way, I was able to let a complete stranger in to my tormented dreams of always wanting to be in the Nutcracker. I seemed to grow every year, and finally I stopped asking my mom to measure me...or maybe I didn't, but I just always expected that maybe I hadn't grown out of the requirement height boundaries. I was so delighted to realize that this local production might possibly be the "recital" for all of the young dancers. How wonderful that their solos, duets, group performances were all a collaborative end of year production that had some purpose! Now that I am officially too old, too tall, and too large, oh and too old to ever be a ballerina, I was completely able to enjoy the dance at any level.Iain, on the other hand, told me in line for the potty, "Mama, no more princess show." Uh oh...
This year, as the curtain was lifted, I was again transformed into a wide-eyed child with the party scene and all of the festivities that come at Christmastime. I was able to see through the eyes of my Iain who quietly sat on my lap, engrossed with all of the children dancing and playing on stage. I loved pointing out all of the little nuances of the ballet that have always been my favorite, and he nodded with his thumb resting quietly in his mouth. A quick glance down the row of seats, and I saw my darling Fiona perched on her Mana's lap, watching all of the moves and jumps of the "princesses" in all of their costume finery and pointy toe shoes.I + F made it as far as the "Waltz of the Flowers" and it was time to sneak out of the theatre. I was a bit depressed that we were making too much noise and had to leave, so I looked at my sister and mother and whined, "This is my favorite part coming up...the Pas de deux!" My sister whined with me and said, "Mine too!" Mana was so gracious and said we could sneak back in and watch a bit more. We were just standing in the aisle, and giggling at each other as we were getting our own fix of tradition. How could we be there, hear the music, and not want to see all of it?! Pretty soon, we heard little voices reminding me that the almost 3 year old and 1.5 year old did very well by sitting through almost 2 full hours of ballet. That is more than most grown men can handle! So we scooted out, to take little people home for naps.Husband and I say each year that we need to start our own traditions at the Little Josephs. Each year we battle each other's own family traditions, and if there is stress it is that difficult time when we have to release some of our own childhood traditions and build with each other for traditions we make with our own babes. We are keeping some, and modifying others. This year has been a tear jerker for this Mama as I hang up my own childhood Christmas ornaments along side with the collections that have already begun for my children. Each one of mine has a special memory for me, and each one of theirs has a special memory for me too. I am afraid it will be all too soon, that our tree will become naked as they go off and need their own ornaments to decorate with. Their little voices speak truth about the baby Jesus and the angels, and their excitement just pours out when we sing "Chri-me-mas" songs. As we get close to another turn of the calendar, God is so good. That is all I know today.