Wednesday, March 18, 2015

At That Time in My Life (written in January 2015)

Last December, 2014, as my own Christmas gift to our Juli-Bean, I took her to see her first production of the Nutcracker ballet. We were meeting a couple of my moms-group friends, who were bringing their own little girls, as we had bought all our tickets together as a group. Juli-Bean wore her official Christmas dress for the season, donning a pair of glittery black, hot pink, lime green and teal blue Skechers light-up 'Twinkle Toes' sneakers. No joke. She had forgotten to gather her tights and her quilted, shiny metallic gold, dress-up mary janes before we had gone first to grandfather's for the Annual Johnson Family Christmas Candy Making day. She pulled off those Twinkle Toes though as if the choice had been deliberate, despite the initial moment of panicked realization she'd left her gold shoes at home.

We'd left candy making all too soon, to head to the theater. We had to park nearly a block away and we ran to the Peery Egyptian Theater with one of the moms and her one daughter, who we had met at a crosswalk. We were talking as we ran, and upon entering the theater, we found our other friend and her two girls immediately.

I have no recollection as to any specifics of what any of us were talking about... As we came through those main entry doors of the Egyptian and into the lit and busy theater lobby, a potpourri of fragrance hit my nose - old, aged theater smells of dust, lemony cleaners, and musty vanilla with hints of pine. As we gave hugs of greetings to our friends, and I handed out everyone's tickets, I gave Juli-Bean our two tickets, telling her she could offer them to the usher at the entry door to the inside of the theater itself for the usher to help us determine where our assigned seats were. It was meant as a deliberate teaching moment; We ask for help from the get go, to know where to go.

I had a hand held to her back, at the spot between her neck and shoulder, guiding her along, while looking down at her to see her wide-eyed, darling face full of awestruck anticipation. She had her two hands held together at her chest, holding and protecting our two tickets. The first pangs hit me, "I'm at that time in my life, finally," I thought. Tears welled up in my eyes as if on cue, but I looked upward to spread the tears and thereby prevent their falling. I couldn't be crying already.

"I'm finally at that time in my life..."

Juli-Bean was already familiar with the theater, although she hadn't remembered the place until we entered the interior of the theater, walking down the right-side aisle... We had been there on a mommy-daughter date in February 2014 for the Weber State University-sponsored Storytelling Festival, which she had soooo loved. She squealed with LOUD delight and cast her eyes upward, nearly coming to a halt in the center of the aisle -she wanted to confirm whether the twinkling star lights set in the theater's ceiling were on.

As we came to our seats, everyone taking their turn to find their spot, shed their coat, and get themselves situated, Juli-Bean almost forgot we were there for the ballet, and not for our friends alone. Without much of a wait, the lights of the theater were dimmed, and the orchestra pit -yes, a live group of musicians- sprang to life, deftly tuning their instruments for a brief swell, followed by silence and a cough in the theater audience. The first applause began. The conductor came out, gave a quick yet strong bow to introduce himself, followed with a sweeping gesture towards his troupe of musicians, who all stood and promptly sat back down. He then turned toward the stage and raised his arms, held for only a second or two, and then brought them down... and the sparkling, twinkling beginnings of the magic of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Prelude began to be play...

I didn't even make it four full measures before my eyes were utterly filled with fat tears, and an ache of pure emotion swelled in my chest. When the flute first began to play, the tears were already rolling down my cheeks, dripping from my chin, and by the time the triangle began to chime away, my mascara was destroyed. I was so happy.

One of my oldest first memories I have of my own mum is of going to Ballet West's production of The Nutcracker in Salt Lake City. I remember sitting on the first row of the mezzanine, left of the stage. I remember clutching my mother's hand, my left arm outstretched behind me as I nearly leaned clear out of my seat, gazing down at the stage, absolutely rapt with wonder and fascination. I'm sure, not unlike Juli-Bean's first time, there were moments when I, too, wasn't entirely captivated, but once the themed dances began, my Juli-bean, just like I had been at her exact age, didn't miss a moment on that stage.

Another happy childhood Nutcracker memory of mine, it's also one of the few memories I have of my mother having long hair that does not come from a photograph... We were on a the mezzanine again, maybe my second or third time seeing the Nutcracker, I don't know. I looked at her over my left shoulder, she wasn't looking at me -she was watching the stage with a soft smile on her face and a look of serene peace, looking pleased. Her face was lit in a golden glow of light reflecting from the stage below. And I felt such love for her swell inside me -such happiness- and then I turned to see the Sugar Plum Fairies take their turn on the stage. This memory hit me as I watched the Sugar Plum fairies take the stage that Saturday with Juli-Bean... And I cried some more.

At intermission, it was every girl for herself in our group. Juli-Bean and I, we made a beeline for the bathrooms to get that out of the way, pronto. Thereafter, we wandered about the lobby looking at the displays and the Nutcracker boutique. Without having to convince me, Juli-Bean chose a nutcracker doll for us to purchase -I had always wanted one. We took some pictures of her posed in front of a life-size Nutcracker and took pictures of one of our friends with her own daughter... And this friend of mine, who had taken her daughter to see the Nutcracker the year before, for her daugther's first Nutcracker production, she said something to me that I will never forget: We've reached that time in our lives in which we get to do the things we've imagined doing with our children.

Nearly 4 years ago, when Juli-Bean was nearly a year old, it was then that I realized that if I wanted to recreate for my own daughter some of the pure joys of my own childhood, we had to leave Las Vegas.

We've been in Ogden for 2 years now. I'm hoping that for 2015, I'll get past the things that have held me back over the last 3 or 4 years, that have held me in anxiety and worry, with a panicked sense of no direction.

I reeeeally need to learn how to embrace my daily decisions that effect TODAY, and I need to live my life as it is, and stop waiting for when this or that comes into place. Some of it may never come into place, and I will have squandered away what I do have right now, right in front of me. That's what the Nutcracker taught me, with my 5 year old beside me, squeezing my hand in the dark of the theater.

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