Every year when I was little, my mom and dad would take me to the Nutcracker. I would get dressed up in little velvet dresses, patent leather mary janes, colorful tights and bows in my hair. We would drive from our house in Oakland over the bridge into San Francisco and go to the War Memorial Opera House on Van Ness. I loved the Nutcracker.
Like lots of little girls, I wanted desperately to be a ballerina. My mother signed me up for modern dance lessons instead of ballet, which is similar, but really not the same thing at all. I lasted less than a year. I thought that the sugar plum fairy was the most beautiful woman in the world, except for maybe Maleficent, the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty, who I was obsessed with (what can I say, I was a slightly weird little kid.)
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve heard lots of stories from other grown-up little girls about how much they hated being dragged to the Nutcracker every year. I could not at the time, and still cannot to this day, understand why anyone would hate the Nutcracker. For me, the annual trip to the Nutcracker was a night full of magic, albeit a long one.
The year I was five, my parents got a babysitter for my baby sister, and the three of us, all dressed up, headed over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. Before we had left the house, I started feeling sick: hot, sweaty, and nauseous.
I still wanted to go, and more than that, my mother wanted to make sure I didn’t miss one of my favorite parts of Christmas, so I was handed a juice box and whisked out the door. The drive to the theatre didn’t help much, and by the time we got there I was definitely ailing. My mother just sat me on her lap and started pointing out all the beautiful women and architectural details around us, trying to distract me.
She was so excited for me to be there that she couldn’t admit that I might be too sick to be in public. Finally, when Mother Ginger came onstage, her seemingly dozens of children dancing out from underneath her skirt, usually my favorite part of the ballet, my mom looked over to see me lying, flushed, eyes half closed, against my dad.
Finally, she realized something might actually be wrong with me. She reached over and felt my forehead, which was burning. Right there in the middle of the ballet, she picked me up, and walked out, my dad grabbing my small red coat and following behind. When we got home I had a 103 degree fever.
What I don’t remember is ever getting better, although I obviously must have. What I do remember is, even though I felt horrible and wanted more juice and my bed, I was sad about having to miss the rest of the ballet.