During December I thought it would be fun to watch The Nutcracker Ballet with the kids as part of the magic of the Christmas season. We enjoyed the experience when Laura was just a few weeks old. And every Friday evening since it has been their weekly movie of choice. Our favorite version is the The York City Ballet in 1993 on youtube. Drosslemier’s nephew is the kid actor from Home Alone! We have also read the original Nutcracker story by E.T.A Hoffmann to round out our tellings, which we nicknamed the Marie Nutcracker around here.
Four months later and Nathan is usually “Pink Fritz” (inspired by the pink costume from the show) and Emily is “Clara”. First thing in the morning Emily changes into her Sunday dress and grabs her nutcracker (a porcelain doll someone gave her after Nathan was born). She turns on the CD from The Illustrated Book of Ballet Stories begins dancing, then runs to me and says, “Can you tell the story of the nutcracker”. Nathan jumps up and grabs his sword (a leftover dowel) and switches between the mouse king, pink fritz, and the nutcracker.
We live out our day mixing in the plot of the nutcracker and listening to classical ballet music. Occasionally everything will pause while Emily remembers another prop to make (like a drum for Fritz or a riding stick horse). Clara and I (her mother) visit the toymaker to buy a present for the party. We return home to the party (and I finish final preparations by cleaning the kitchen after breakfast). Uncle Drosslemier arrives and brings his nephew (and I introduce Clara and the nephew from the kitchen). The dancing dolls come out and Emily and Nathan each act out the dancing dolls part.
Laura usually wakes up or needs to go down for a nap at this point so I run up stairs to take care of her. As I walk down the stairs I become the toymaker and hand out presents – a nutcracker to Clara and a bear nutcracker to Fritz. They dance until Clara hands Fritz her nutcracker and says “break it for pretend.” Fritz gently takes the doll in his hand and says, “break nutcracker. pretend” while moving his hand along the head and then has a look of great sadness come over him which Clara matches. They run to me to fix the nutcracker with a wave of my hand as if I’m wrapping it.
Then I move into folding laundry/cleaning something and proclaim the party is over and time for everyone to go to bed. The kids grab their pillows and blankets to make their bed. They drag the black chair into the middle of the living to be the Christmas Tree. Once the set change is complete they fall asleep and Clara begins her dream and the Christmas Tree gets bigger and bigger.
Nathan jumps up and starts hitting the ground with his stick to say, “Fight. Fight. Fight.” with each hit. Sometimes he’s the nutcracker, sometimes he’s pink fritz, and sometimes he’s the mouse king. Clara watches in fear and horror until she sees he needs help. She rips off her silver flat shoe that is falling apart (called her slipper!) and throws it across the room to stop the Mouse King. At this point Nathan’s persona falls over.
Clara and the nephew/nutcracker prince head to the land of sweets. The sugar plum fairy dances (sometimes done by Emily, other times watched by Clara). Clara and the nutcracker dance. They watch the dancers perform for them. They eat (if it is lunchtime it is the only way I can get them to the table). As the dream comes to a close Emily Clara rushes back to the black office chair and lays down until her mother calls (me!) “Clara, Fritz it is time to wake up, it is morning”. Then we all wonder if it was only a dream.
Then we go back to beginning. If we aren’t telling the story Emily is dancing dancing dancing, becoming more graceful and exacting in her ballet every day. She studies pictures from the Illustrated Ballet book of the different positions and shows us during meals on her chairs how she can replicate them.
We told the kids about our upcoming move and Emily’s first question was, “Is there a library there? Because I want to check out books about ballet. I want to learn more about ballet.”