I watched The Nutcracker last night. I really love it and try to watch it every year during the Christmas season. The music never fails to put me in a good mood and the ballet fills me with memories of years past.
When I was 8, I was in Miss Patsy’s School of Dance in Winslow, Maine. I was THRILLED to be dancing and loved every second I was in her school. When I came home from each class I would head to the basement and put on my tap shoes and go to town. “Double step, double step, double step, step step step,” I’d repeat over and over. Upstairs I’d put on the ballet slippers and practice my plié for what seemed like a lifetime to my sister who shared my bedroom.
That Christmas my parents surprised us all by taking us to Boston to see The Nutcracker – live on stage. I was over the moon. The music! The costumes! It was my dream to one day be on that stage. Boston was a 3 hour drive from where we lived so this required planning. My father wasn’t mechanically inclined and he refused to go farther than 25 miles from home in a car with more than 10,000 miles on the odometer. (seriously) He wouldn’t risk a breakdown in an old car, he’d tell us.
Although I was only 8 years old, I tried on every outfit I owned to ensure I was well dressed for this outstanding event and I practiced my dance steps daily on the off-chance they’d need me on stage. My sister was happy to go, my brother — not so much. “A bunch of sissy girls prancing around,” he’d say. When he found out there were men and boys in it, well, that was worse. “Boys don’t dance,” he’d say. He’s grown up a bit since he was 7 and enjoys classical music and ballet.
On the day of the ballet, we all dressed in our finest and piled in the car. I always got to the car last and ended up sitting in the middle in the back on the hump. It didn’t last long because I always got carsick and we’d have to stop for me to barf. I was worried that I’d spoil my dress so I refused to eat that entire day. You can’t throw up if you haven’t eaten, I decided. True, but you can dry heave for what seemed an eternity.
The ballet was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen. There were thousands of people (or so it seemed) and when the curtain opened and the ballerinas began dancing, I was mesmerized. I didn’t want it to end.
When it was over and we were driving back to Maine, I told my parents that I wanted to be a ballerina just like the women and girls on stage. That was my new life goal and I knew I would be the best dancer in the world.
My father looked at my mother and my mother looked back at my father and then she looked at me and said, “Maureen, ballet dancers have flat chests and no woman in our family has one of those. I don’t think you can be a dancer with a big bosom.”
I was gutted, my dreams dashed and it was all my mother’s fault, her and her damn genes. I stayed angry with her for weeks. I can still do the double step, double step, double step, step step step and I’d be happy to show you when we meet.
We have had a busy week with family staying with us and visits to the nursing home, outings with the olds and lots and lots of cooking. Have you ever done a quick breakfast where you bake an egg in a big mushroom? It’s a quick breakfast for a crowd where you brush the mushrooms with oil and bake gill side down for a few minutes, then flip over and crack an egg in each one. When the eggs are done to your liking, remove from the oven and serve with a side of toast.
I’m pleased to share with you what John gave me for Christmas. I’m going to a “Gunnas Masterclass” in writing with standup comedian, author and all around fun person, Catherine Deveny. She has assured John that I will come away with the tools to be a better writer and fingers crossed that’s what will happen.
The course is advertised as a great gift for the frustrated writer in the family. It fits me, don’t you think? Why is it called gunnas? If you’ve ever said you’re gunna be a better writer or you’re gunna write more blog posts or you’re gunna get past your writer’s block – Catherine can fix that and with a few laughs too. I wish you could come with me.