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the Nutcracker

Daughter of Mine~ My children are, as they are for most moms, the most important things in my life. I don’t say this as a metaphor, or say it for effect, I am not trying to impress anyone nor did I ever know what hold my children would take on my heart. How could I know that they would reside within me forever; in my womb for but a mere 10 months but in my heart, for all eternity. I had children as do most people as an expression of my love with my husband. I found a man that I loved so much that it could fill a room and I wanted nothing more than to have as much of him as I could in the world.  There was nothing I could imagine to be greater than two people who genuinely and completely loved one another, bringing into the world tiny humans that they could share that love with, that they could add to the world to make it that much better of a place. Yet, still I had no idea how these tiny humans would fill my life, my time, my space and my heart.

My Daughter; My Heart

Still there are some days when I feel the effect of my cup runneth over more than others. Ella was in her 2nd Nutcracker this year and, in theory, I thought it would be a little less overwhelming being that we have done it once already. But it wasn’t. We’ve spent the last  month prepping for the production and the last two weekends my daughter has taken the stage as a toy soldier. I could not be prouder of my little ballerina. Last year, she was my perfect little snowflake; a vision of beauty in tulle . She was five and the maturity and enthusiasm with which she commanded her audience was something to behold. Every performance left me with a lump in my throat as well as my heart. I took a million pictures because whenever I wasn’t in the audience, I was sure to be found backstage chaperoning and doing hair for the tiniest of ballerinas. It went by in a flash, much like her fleeting childhood, and I wanted to drink it all in. I didn’t want to miss a second.

This year was a bit different. We are in a new town, a new ballet and Ella had a new part. A part that she was not initially overjoyed to have been chosen to dance. This year she was a toy soldier. Last year was tulle and tiaras, 15 tiny snowflakes cascading across the stage as snow fell and filled the air with the most ethereal beauty. This year was admiral soldier ware, cannons, swords and a battle to the death. Ella is very girly and initially wanted no piece of this part but then she realized that she not only had the privilege of shooting the cannon ( in all its pyrotechnic glory)  but she got to hand the sword to the Nutcracker prince in the battle scene. The very sword that would ultimately defeat the arch nemesis of our heroine Clara, the Mouse King. This piqued her interest because as any Mommy of a ballerina knows, every little girl wants to grow up to be Clara. Being in close proximity to the current Clara is like walking hand in hand with a princess; it is being in the presence of tiny ballerina greatness.

My Daughter; My Soul

I sat, holding my breath, on opening night waiting for my daughter to take the stage. The orchestra swelled Tchaikovsky and my heart almost burst with pride. Chaos broke out on the stage as the battle scene began and the principals took the stage. My mouth was dry, my eyes were moist and then I saw her..amidst all the chaos, my little soldier marching out from stage right. At that  moment, the place could have caught on fire. All I could see, through my teary blurred vision, was my little soldier. That same familiar lump in my heart returned and I could not talk or breathe. I could only admire her and think to myself, I am so lucky to be a part of this little girl’s story. My heart burst right there in seat 17. Every move she made, every breath she took, every smile and glance; I could see that she was happy. She was magical and beautiful. I hope to see all of her dreams come true in my lifetime. I watched as she exited stage left and thought to myself, one day I may be lucky enough to have my heart bursts as she dances the Pas de Deux and the cymbals crash. But for the life of me, I can’t imagine that I could ever be any prouder of her than I was at the very moment she took the stage as a little toy soldier.

The production wrapped this afternoon and our holiday celebration has officially started. Sorry, if it seems that I’ve been MIA lately but it’s time consuming work loving on children in the fashion to which I’ve become accustomed to, especially when my heart’s been bursting with love. I am blessed.

Daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future.  ~Author Unknown

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I fully realize this picture is fuzzy but there is something ethereal about & it is very reminiscent of how the weekend felt.

The house lights went down & I was overcome with emotion.I sat there, my 3 year old to my right and her father on the other side of her.We held our breaths.Tchaikovsky started to swell from the orchestra pit and my heart began to swell with pride, as my eyes swelled with tears in anticipation of my little girl’s debut performance on the stage as a ballerina.

We know the story of the Nutcracker well.We’ve been reading it to Bella since she was 3, the year that she started taking ballet.It is a big part of our holiday tradition.This year was different, this year it wasn’t just about sitting in the audience and basking in the holiday spirit .This year was momentous.This year, the Nutcracker was one of my Bella’s milestones; like first steps, first words, first day of school. Like so many before it and so many that are yet to come, it is that moment that parents find themselves reluctantly and pridefully letting go…just a little, just enough to give you a great big lump in your heart.

So, there I sat with my great big giant lump in my heart, trying to hold it together.Waiting, hoping, not breathing in anticipation of the end of the first act;the moment that my little snowflake would enter stage left. Then it happened, there she was with her white leotard and tutu, wrapped in the glow of the stage light, floating gracefully above the floor like a vision in tulle loveliness. I realize that everyone else was focusing their attentions on the “big” snowflakes ( the more seasoned ballerinas) but my every attention was devoted solely to my little snowflake.Every plies, leap, pirouette that she did, I watched her face to see that she was enjoying every moment of it.After all, isn’t that what we live for..those moments of sheer happiness in our child’s face. The 5 minutes that she was on stage felt like a lifetime, as I sat there holding my breath and trying to suppress the lump in my heart. Then, it was over. Four months of rehearsals, weeks of anticipation, countless dollars and a few moments of graceful beauty under falling snow; priceless!

We met her backstage with roses, gifts, and enough praise to last her a lifetime but no words could amply convey the pride I felt in my heart. Family and friends came from all over to see our little girl take the stage.I just tried not to cry…too much.I held it together pretty well until the ride home from the theater and then the lump in my heart gave way and burst, overflowing and escaping through my eyes. There I sat, silently, ugly crying feeling the pride and momentum of what had just transpired.The Big Guy sat next to me, pretending not to notice how swept away I was by this occasion. He’s learned after 13 years to just be, any interaction or conversation can induce hysterics;hyperventilating, noisy, body shaking ugly crying.

It was a moment she will never forget and neither will the Big Guy and I. It was the first moment our little girl became a real ballerina. It is emblazoned in my mind like the image on my digital camera with the waltz of the snowflakes accompanying it on a never ending loop. What is a moment of overwhelming pride that you have felt for your child? How did you handle the lump in your heart?

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Snowflake, be still my beating heart. Saturday, the day we’d been waiting for for the past 3 years finally happened.Ella started ballet when she was  3 and since then has been longing, planning for the day when she would be in our city’s ballet production of the Nutcracker. I remember the first days of taking her to ballet class, she was so nervous and uncoordinated. She was practically a baby in her pink tights, leotard and ballet slippers. She was so small, it was difficult to even find shoes that fit her appropriately. But like all things she sets her mind to, Ella achieves what she desires. She doesn’t really understand limitations. I like it that way. I hope she never loses that. Saturday was one of the destinations that this journey has been headed towards. Saturday was the first time she was old enough to audition. We woke up Saturday morning. I was nauseated from nerves. Ella was excited. As I put on her tights and leotard, I could feel the stress building inside me. While pulling her hair back into her ballerina knot, I was almost brought to tears by the thought of what if she isn’t chosen. She has been looking forward to this day for over half of her short life. As she pulled on her rain boots, I realized this was one of those defining moments in her life. This was the day she either became a performing ballerina or the first day she experienced rejection.Either way, I was nervous for her.

Daddy’s little Snowflake

We walk in to the dance theater and register. The place is packed full of a range of ballerinas. I immediately start sizing my girl up to every other ballerina in sight. After getting her into her slippers, her father and I offer some words of encouragement. At this point, I am pretty much vomiting a little bit in my mouth. Ella is unphased. She just wants to get on with it and get her part. Her confidence is inspirational.

Mommy’s Little Snowflake

She locates a couple of competition her friends from class. They squeal at the sight of one another. All of us Moms breathe a sigh of relief that we are not sending our girls to the wolves alone. Then it happens. They call for the 5-7 age group. With a kiss for good luck and a smile, we send our girl off to her fate. I say a little prayer. We are all praying our little 5 year olds get to be mice ( standard part for that age group) in the Nutcracker.

Time passed s-l-o-w-l-y. I watch her ascend the stairs, my little girl, and I realize this is just one more of those firsts in life that I can not do for her. She is excited and a little nervous, but mostly excited. I am a half a breath away from falling to the ground and assuming the fetal position.

We wait for her to return. And wait. And wait some more. A half hour later, part of the group ascends the stairs. I hold my breath and wait for Ella to appear. One of her classmates comes down, her mother is standing, waiting with me. She is carrying a letter. She has the part! She is a MOUSE! Hurrah!
Uh oh! The mice have been cast. Where is my Ella? Oh, no my worst fears are coming true. She is not a mouse. All I could think was, she will be heart broken. Pull it together Debi. You have to be strong for your girl. I was going over all my pep talks in my head.  “It’s OK, next year we can try again”, ” You are a great dancer, there were a lot of little girls trying out and everyone deserves a chance”, “Mommy loves you, these people are stupid (LOL,I’d never say that..well, probably not)”. I shot my husband an “Oh Shit” look. He gave me the “breathe woman” look, as usual. I congratulated the other little girl. She was so proud.
Then ,15 minutes later, another group is released. I see Ella. She is holding an envelope. All I could think of was “how the hell am I going to explain why she’s not a mouse”. She walked over to me all smiles ( poor unsuspecting fool). I asked her how the audition went. She thought it went fabulous. She used to be taught by the director ( who was actually at audition selection) and she was just so exited to see Ms.Prima Ballerina. It’s really all that she cared about. Then I took the envelope out of her hands, I braced myself, and I opened it.Deep breath!
She wasn’t a mouse. She was a SNOWFLAKE! It’s a bigger, more advanced part and she gets to wear a white tutu , with a tiara and dance as snow falls onto stage. She was happy. Her Daddy and sister were proud and happy for her. I was relieved and so full of pride of my little girl that I thought I might bust at the seams. I texted every family member we have, on both sides, and told them to pencil in the weekend of December 10-12 to come and see our Ella in her stage debut as a snowflake. Her first performance as a ballerina will be attended by every family member who can make it. There will be a showering of flowers and love on our little girl at a diner in her honor. It will be a night she will not forget. And to think,

I almost vomited over a snowflake.

Ella, you are always Mommy’s Prima Bellarini. I am so proud of you. You will not be capable of understanding this feeling that I have until you have your own child. It is more than any pride than I have ever felt in myself. I love you! 9/11/10 First Audition date ever. We have our very own Snowflake this holiday season.

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