Last night, my youngest daughter took my father to a performance of The Nutcracker for his Christmas present. She is carrying on a long tradition of mine and perhaps building one of her own. My dad told her it was the best Christmas present he'd ever received, and I don't think he was just being polite.
The first time I ever saw a live performance of The Nutcracker, I was 11 years old. For some unknown reason I got it in my head that I HAD to see it that year. The music was familiar to me but I'd never seen a live performance of it. I went by myself that first year, and for many years after that. I still have vivid memories of my dad dropping me off and picking me up before I could drive myself. Once my daughters were born and old enough to sit still through it and enjoy it, my dad started going with us every year. I didn't miss a single year going until I was about 40, and they stopped having the big professional production here for a couple of years. We even suffered through a show at the Madison Arts Center the last year we all went together but our old bodies and arthritis couldn't stand the wooden bleachers and bad sound and barely-heated gym. Over the years we have seen some incredible ballet troupes, and some really amateur ones, heard full orchestras and screeching recorded noise, seen the absolute best and worst of productions, costumes, sets, lighting and choreography. One year they changed everything up and we left simply shaking our heads and wondering where the mice and pas de deaux were. No Chinese or Russian dancers, and dancing candy canes (we think that's what they were anyway) instead of the army of mice. It's like an old friend to see the same sets and costumes year after year, and there's no real reason to do more than tweak the staging on a classic.
I was floored when she told me a month or so ago that she wanted to take him. She worked for the money to buy the tickets and took care of all the arrangements herself. She spent an hour yesterday trying on everything in her closet looking for the "right" Nutcracker attire. We've worn everything from black velvet to blue jeans so I left it up to her. She looked beautiful and elegant in her black pants and pretty shirt and her paternal grandmother's white fur coat. I can't believe how grown-up she looked and acted last night, but I was so proud of her and so happy that the years of taking (sometimes dragging) them to get some culture has seemingly paid off. The Nutcracker was something that has been a part of my holidays for so many years that I can't help but be sentimental when it takes on importance to one of my kids too. Maybe our traditions were not all for naught.