The Nutcracker

December 2000

Last night Laurie and Abbie and I went into Syracuse to see “The Nutcracker” and have an early dinner at The Blue Tusk. As is traditional before ballet, I had a liverwurst sandwich with a bag of chips. Tim, the owner, treated me to a pint of Rogue Yellow Snow Ale, a holiday beer, a delicious pale ale, lightly but wisely hopped, with just a touch more alcohol on the palate than you would commonly find in the style. And then off to the Civic Center, a treat for Abbie’s 17th birthday.

And as I sat in the balcony, I came to realize how closed to possibility I’ve become. The lights dimmed after the party scene. On the stage, the young girl, Clara, curled up in a chair and closed her eyes. The action slowed all around her. A soft spotlight cast a halo of light. The music grew quiet, and a little voice in the darkness said, “Is she dead?”

Now, I had assumed Clara was falling asleep, just like she does every time I see “The Nutcracker.” I was set for a dream sequence. But the child next to Laurie was wide open and ready for anything. Death. Tragedy. Mystery!

And then the little mice scampered on stage and gathered around Clara. The child in the dark said, “Are they going to eat her?”

While I had been pretty confident the mice were going to scare Clara, it never occurred to me that they might devour her. I’m supposedly making a living by being creative, but this child just three seats down was way ahead of me, really thinking “outside the box.”

And then the angels fluttered on stage, barefoot girls in little white dresses with wings that glittered. The child asked her mother what they were. The mother said, “Angels.” And the child said, “Are they real?”

Needless to say, I hadn’t thought for a moment they were real. All the way home, I felt hopelessly stodgy.

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