January 2, 2008
The tradition started with finding the perfect dress for the night I looked forward to each year. My mother and I would plan a special outing to the mall, decorated in all the holiday fixings, and we would spend all day looking for the perfect little dress for my tiny five year old body. I would always specifically look for the dress that most closely resembled a princess dress, so anything that overflowed with tulle and sequins that reminded me of an elegant ball gown. When we returned home, my mom would put the dress in a clear wrap to keep it clean, then hung it in my closet. I was allowed to look at it, but I could not wear it until the special day.

I’d count down anxiously to the day when I would make the journey, as I had done in years previous, to my Grandmother and Grandfather’s home just outside of Boston. The entire family would meet there for a great Christmas dinner for lunch (though Christmas was not for a few more weeks). Everyone got dressed in their best, and sat around the giant dining table, which even with its enormous size needed another table to be combined in order to fit my large Irish family.

For lunch, my grandma would make glazed ham, steamed carrots, and of course baked potatoes. The meal was certainly filling, enough so that my younger girl cousins and I used to cry to out mothers to allow us to take off our tights under our dresses for a short while.

Once the grand feast was over, it was time for the festivities to begin. All the ladies of the home rushed to get ready for the show. My aunts put their makeup on while my mom helped myself and my younger cousins put on our new dresses. My Auntie Nancy would put my hair in pretty curls and bows like she did with her daughters, and once we all resembled beautiful little china dolls, my Grandma would then come upstairs with new dress coats for all the little girls, compete with matching hats and the kind of hand warmer that was like a round pillow.

All bundled up, we carefully stepped out onto the snow-covered sidewalk outside the house, and headed towards the car. The snow continued to grace our journey as we made our way to the Wang Theatre.

We all sat in the theatre, anxiously awaiting the moment when the curtain would rise and the magic would begin again. Although everyone was deep in conversation, I sat silent, quietly absorbing the world around me, and dying in anticipation to see the beautiful Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. Finally the A was sounded, and the show began.

My eyes teared, as I refused to blink in fear of missing something important. A spell was cast over me, and nothing could break it, with the exception of intermission. Months of endless dreams of the Nutcracker Prince and Clara followed the performance, and much like other girls my age, I dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina like the ones I had seen twirling and leaping onstage.

My wish was granted a few years later when I joined the Eastern Connecticut Ballet Company. Each year we performed at the Garde Theatre in New London, in front of families like mine, and children like I had been, watching the magic of the ballet.

For my Christmas present sophomore year, I asked for tickets to see the Boston Ballet perform the Nutcracker one last time. We had ended our family tradition years before, and my family had just traveled to New London to see me perform.

I did my best to follow the tradition I had enjoyed so much when I was a child. I went to the mall with some friends and picked out a simple black dress for the occasion. I drove up with my mom and a friend from my ballet class. We went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, dressed up and made up our hair and such and arrived at the Nutcracker.

To my dismay, the Nutcracker I remembered was very different. To begin with, the ballet had been moved across town to another, much smaller low-budget theatre on the outskirts of town. At the altitude we were sitting at, it was already difficult to see the show, however, the magic I had known before was no where to be found at any seat in the theatre. I knew the music, I knew the plot. I could see easily if and when someone fell out of place or missed a step. The special effects no longer captivated me, for I knew how they worked. The prima ballerina tripped 4 times during my favorite Pas des Deux, and overall, the dancing was hardly impressive. My eyes began to tear, just as they had when I was younger. Only now it was for a different reason: the magic was gone.

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Proud FL Dad said...
Sept. 3, 2008 at 1:42 am
What a talented writer! This is a great story and the words paint such a lovely picture. I'd like to see other story's written by this terrific girl!
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