My mom has often recalled with fondness that her grandparents took her to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center when she was a little girl. She has often recalled details like the magic of the Christmas tree growing before her six-year-old eyes, the snow falling from the stage ceiling as the haunting choir serenaded the snow, the lavender and pink tutus swirling together on the stage, and then the astonishing good fortune to have a Grandfather who secured a meeting on the stage afterwards with ballet and choreography legend Jacques D’Amboise.
When I went to New York one time, I visited Lincoln Center, bought her a christmas ornament in the shape of the chandeliers, which I recognized immediately from her description. She often expressed how much she wanted to take me to see it, particularly as I danced for much of my life, and even danced in the Nutcracker in middle school.
As it turns out, December 2019, is the year that “someday” crystalized into a date on the calendar, train tickets, theater tickets, and eventually a day that I will savor and relish as much as her six year old self did.
We boarded the train at 5:45 a.m. and arrived in the sunlit, holiday bedecked center of 34th Street. Christmas in New York has long been an experience that lives in Christmas movies and dreams, and the real thing did not disappoint. We wandered around Harold Square, flocked Macy’s as it opened, and then headed in a cab uptown to Lincoln Center, where we met my dear friend for brunch and a French bistro across from Lincoln Center. She arrived right as we were ordering mimosas, and she as she hurriedly declined, the news tumbled out that she was pregnant with her first child. I fell apart in the happiest tears, and we enjoyed a decadent brunch of pastries, eggs benedict, two mimosas and one water.
The ballet itself had preserved many elements of the original staging and choreography, so I got to witness many of the memories I had heard again and again growing up become my own. We also had the privilege to see Charlotte Nebras, the first black lead of the Nutcracker dazzle in the lead role of Marie, sometimes called Clara. I hope that many little girls in attendance can aspire to dream big leaping ballerina dreams having seen themselves represented so beautifully.
By the time we boarded the train home that evening, we were completely worn out, but riding high emotionally from a day of making dreams and memories become reality.