Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Pure Joy of Children

Life has been pretty heavy around here lately.

Lots of illness. Lots of it.

Lots of decision. Lots of it.

Lots of stress. Lots of it.

Schedules are off. Kids aren't sleeping well. We run from place to place and barely have time to sit around here.

Before the holidays began, I had grand plans for our season--calmer, quieter, more time at home to spend quietly with family--and the spirit of Christmas would be in every carol, scented candle, and gift under the tree. Somehow it hasn't turned out the way I'd planned.

I decided to take this whole "Christmas Spirit" thing into my own hands last weekend, and on a whim, I bought tickets for "The Nutcracker." I grew up listening to the music (Tchaikovsky is one of my mother's all-time favorites and thus one of mine, too), and I hadn't been to see the ballet in many years--I think Lily was four, if that gives you any idea. Lily's friend is a principal ballerina at a local studio and she begged us to come see it.

So we did. I took both of my girls and one of Lily's friends.

Funny thing about "The Nutcracker."

It draws you in on every level--sights, sounds, everything. The music. The costumes. The toe shoes. I loved watching families gathered together, with little girls in their shimmery Christmas dresses and black tights, snapping selfies and carrying nutcrackers. There is something magical about the whole experience.

The excitement in the theatre was contagious. We found our last-minute seats in the second row and looked through the program. We read all the bios, searched for Lily's ballerina friend in the pictures, and got ready for the show to start. Eve was excited--she had had her own dance recital that morning, and she knew her "Chinese Dancers" music would be near the end of the show. Eve sat wide eyed and silent as the story unfolded just feet in front of her. I loved bending down on occasion to explain what was happening or hug her tight. Her first Nutcracker.

Just minutes before curtain, a couple with their small pink tutu-clad daughter took their seats directly behind us. She couldn't have been older than four, this little ballerina. Her eyes and smile were bright with anticipation, and the minute the music started, she started talking. "Mommy, look! There's Clara! I know her!" "The nutcracker is going to turn into a big giant nutcracker, just you watch, Daddy!" Her parents would quietly acknowledge her comment then try to quiet her. I've been in their place before--exuberant kids who can't contain their excitement and their random outbursts of loud joy. Every time she would make a comment, Lily or I (or both of us) would turn around and smile or talk with her for a moment. Seeing the ballet through the eyes of my youngest daughter and this tiny girl was exactly the Christmas joy my soul needed.

After taking Eve to the bathroom during intermission (twice--which I really can't explain . . .), we walked back to our seats. This little family was standing and stretching and talking. The mom caught my eye and apologized. "I'm sorry she's so loud. She just loves this so much." It made me sad that she felt the need to apologize for her child's enjoyment.

"Don't apologize. We love listening to her. Please let her enjoy it as much as she can and know that we are loving it with her." The mom's eyes smiled her thanks as the lights dimmed for the third act.

"Mommy! It's the Sugar Plum Fairy!" "Daddy, this is the waltz. It's my favorite!" "Daddy, do you see Clara up there on the sleigh?"

By the end of the ballet, Eve was somber and still, but still awake. So was our little friend in the third row. As we rose to leave, I asked her if she loved the ballet. Her dad answered for her. "I think she's about done. But I know where we will be next year!"

I smiled all the way up the stairs to our bedrooms that night, carrying Eve's sleeping body and thinking of these two little girls and their Nutcracker experience. The magic of the season through a child's eyes. Beautiful costumes, beautiful dancing, and beautiful ballet dreams.

The season truly started for me that day.

May the joys of Christmas come to your family through the eyes of children--your own and those you see around you.


  1. Missing the Nutcracker was one of the reasons I was sad to leave Arizona early this year. I was one of those little girls so many years ago. I was even in it twice. And I've been back every single year since, with the exception of maybe 1 or 2 years. I'm so glad you took the girls to see it! Wish I could have been there! Hopefully next year ;)

  2. Heather and her mom take my granddaughter, Carli, to The Nutrcracker every year. It's become quite the tradition.

    Dave and I saw it performed by the SF Ballet on our honeymoon. So needless to say, I'm a fan.

    So cute that you guys allowed that little girl behind you to truly enjoy herself. <3