Monday, December 22, 2008


Ten years have passed since I last saw the Nutcracker ballet. By comparison, in the five year time frame before that, I had seen the Nutcracker at least 25 times. If you throw in rehearsals, the number multiplies.

We have a dancer in our family. If genes gave her talent, they certainly were of the kind that skipped my generation. But man oh man, could that girl dance. She was so enchanting that she rose through the ranks and danced on point far earlier than was probably good for her. And we all loved to watch her.

But after she went on to do other things, I stopped going to the Nutcracker. Until today when they persuaded me to come to Madison’s seasonal show.

At intermission I watched other little ones in their very dressiest, take a minute out from all that quiet watching. I know some boys like ballet and I know some girls hate it, but on balance, more girls than boys like it and more girls than boys come to be mesmerized by all that costuming and grace.

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I was surprised to see very very young children in the audience. Like around the age of one. Surely the one year old did not fully appreciate the coming of age story. Her coming of age will be when she is weaned off the bottle.

The tyke in front of us was both curious and sick, leading him intermittently to wheeze and ask lots of questions. I could not decide if I should mind. In the end, I found him to be disarming as he snuggled in his mom’s lap, sneezing, coughing and being actually extremely sweet.

Most people do not find that there is much of a story in the Nutcracker, but I think the best coming of age depictions (in film or music) are ones where plot is irrelevant and the whole drama concentrates on what goes on in the head of a person stepping into adulthood. Ever since I first saw the Nutcracker at the girlish age of ten back in New York, I have felt quite emotional about it. Predictably, I got emotional now, at the age of 55, but I would venture that it was for different reasons.

Outside, after the show, the air was so cold that it was sometimes hard to breathe.

Today, the air remained cold. I had some unpleasant tasks to do (shopping at the mall) and I asked for a ride over to West Towne. There again the world showed its gendered tones. Men sat in any and all available spaces and waited for the ordeal to be over. Women shopped.

Personally, I hate shopping at malls too, but I would not pause for a minute there to wait for anyone. Too chaotic in a disconcerting sort of way.

I left as quickly as I could and only when I was outside, did it strike me that getting home would be a challenge. Ed was out and about, daughters were out and about and I was basically carless. Buses do not run in the way that would lead me quickly home. And so I set out to walk the 4.5 mile stretch to my condo.

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That was a mistake. I was not dressed for below 0 F weather. My legs lost feeling quickly and I lost patience equally fast as the sidewalks along Mineral Point Road (a major Madison artery) were in many places not plowed.

I called the one person nearby whom I thought would rescue me and he did. He happens to have a car with seats that warm up and as I melted in the passenger chair, I thought the only thing missing was a laptop to warm the top of my thighs.