Lyd has been asking to watch “The Nutcracker” a LOT lately. I taped it off of PBS before Christmas; I believe it was part of their “Great Performances” series. This particular performace was recorded last year here in San Franciso with the SF Ballet doing a whole new re-imagining of it. The setting is the 1915 World’s Fair, also called the Panama Pacific International Exhibition, held in San Francisco.
Lyd LOVES it. She wants to watch it everyday, but only the second half. She doesn’t like the scene where the Nutcracker and the Mouse King fight. So, we watch the second half, although today I made her start from the beginning, and promised to fast-forward through the “scary” part. She pretends to be the different characters, and she is constantly asking me questions (sometimes the same question every day!) about what is real and what is not real in the Nutcracker. “Is it a real story, Momma?” “Is there a real Nutcracker?” “Why is Clara dreaming?” Sometimes answering the questions gets a little tedious, but I’m glad her mind is working, I’m glad she’s enjoying the dancing and the music, and it’s certainly better than the other drivel she could be watching on TV.
In one part, the dancers use streamers in their dance. Lyd has a streamer which I gave her for Christmas a year ago, and she has used it a lot more since seeing the girls use their streamers on the Nutcracker. But even without the streamer, she likes to wear her dance leotard (or her princess clothes, when they’re not taken away from her), and dance around to the music. “Momma, come watch my dance!” she says to me more than once a day. It’s very cute. She SO loves to dance.
Last night after supper, she again wanted JJ and I to watch her dance, this time in the living room. So, JJ and I sat down on the matching chairs and watched our daughter dance and pirouette around the living room, while her little sister toddled around. I then had the idea that I should go to the piano and play some of the easy versions of the Nutcracker music that is in my trusty Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook so that she could truly dance to the Nutcracker music.
(Ah, the Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook. I have fond memories of this book from my childhood. I remember sitting next to Grandma Violet on the piano during the week between Christmas and New Year while we were up north at my aunt and uncle’s house. My cousin Julianne and I would sit on either side of Grandma as she would play Christmas carols and songs for us, and we would sing along. Perhaps other people sang along, too. I’m sure that must have happened. But I especially remember the three of us. I learned a lot of songs singing next to Grandma, and when in my early 20′s, I saw a brand new edition of the RD Christmas Songbook for sale at a music store, I bought it immediately. It even came with a book of just lyrics! I put them to good use in my teaching days when we had time to kill between the holiday concert and the beginning of the holiday break. I made multitudinous copies of the lyrics (on the school budget’s dime!), and after doing a few school-ish things, we had a Christmas song sing. I took requests from the kids, and we all sang along. I kept those lyric books when I left teaching, and then now get used at Christmas time when we host Christmas parties at our home. I didn’t have any Christmas parties this year, but in years past we have gotten a LOT of use out of those lyric books.)
So, I sat down at the piano and started playing Nutcracker music, Lyd danced up a storm, Curious J danced along as best as she could, and JJ watched us all from his chair, enjoying the happy family moment and trying to forget the many, many stresses that are crowding his thoughts these days. After I finished the Nutcracker, I paged through the book, choosing other songs and singing away while Lyd danced. Every time I stopped, Lyd would say, “Play another one, Momma!” Who can resist?
In that brief moment of music and dancing, the entire family was happy. It was beautiful.