The “Little Tree” and The Nutcracker Suite

Godfather Drosselmeier

Well. It’s about time.

I’m in full-blown Christmas cleaning/decorating/wrapping mode. There’s not that much to wrap and if UPS can’t figure out how to get up my hill, there may be next to nothing to wrap.

No matter.

I’m putting up the “little tree” and I’ve got The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture on the VHS player. Yes. Video TAPE. I suppose I ought to go about procuring it on DVD.

Tchaikovsky is filling the air and I’m a ballerina en pointe arabesquing about the house in a Martha Stewart Meets Minny Pearl mashup of holiday décor.

[I keep pricetags on some of the “priceless” ornaments as I think it may amuse my great-great-children to see what my treasures cost.]

The Prince and Clara

Back during a different geologic era when I was a youngun, I happened upon The Nutcracker Ballet on television. I’ve always thought it was PBS, but I’m not sure. This version of the ballet has reached legendary status in my mind because I can’t find a copy of it anywhere and I can’t find anyone who even knows what I’m talking about. I do remember watching it once a year from about the age of 9 or so through junior high – 1968 to 1973. Maybe earlier, maybe later.

This version opened with large double doors opening slowly to show the mother lighting the candles on the Christmas tree. That opening scene took the breath of the little girl I once was. So much so that I have worshipped Christmas trees ever since. To the point that I have candles on my Christmas tree – though never lit. And so much so that it’s just not Christmas without watching The Nutcracker.

Sugar Plum Fairy

In my early 20s, I saw the Milwaukee Ballet and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra perform the piece. Cross my heart, it was one of the best versions ever. I particularly remember the eroticism of “the silk scarf” wrapping herself around the gift recipient’s neck. The entire audience gasped.

Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are joined forces with the Pacific Northwest Ballet company and the lot of them produced The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture which was released in 1986. It’s a lush, gorgeous, edgy, hypnotic piece of Christmas tradition. It doesn’t haven’t a silk scarf to get the juices of the audience flowing, but it has other charms.

When I first procured the tape, the Ex and Chef Boy ‘R Mine were less than pleased I was pre-empting football playoffs to watch it. The Ex wandered off, but The Boy and I were glued to it. The next year I had it playing while preparing Christmas dinner. My brother arrived early. The next thing I knew, he and my son were sprawled on the floor, hands propping chins, and so thoroughly engrossed my brother didn’t hear me ask if he wanted a beer. [Possibly the first time my brother didn’t hear the offer of a beer.]

There’s a reason these things become classics. Experts will tell you this is one Tchaikovsky’s worst pieces of music. Ballet folk insist the ballet is mediocre at best. The two of them twirled together in snow, candy canes and twinkle lights are a gestalt that defies explanation. Having watched the whole thing, twice through while I decorate the tree, the holidays now feel like a joyous, magical time and not the period of obligations they felt like yesterday.

Lord! Is it ever going to be done?

Christmas trees are my favorite part of the holiday and the “little tree” took flippin’ forever to put up, in part, because I kept resting on Memory Lane. This tree is comprised of all the ornaments most likely to please children, big and small. It’s out of control and tomorrow I have to fiddle with it to find room for the ornaments from my childhood that my mother is giving me. At the moment it’s covered in Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Star Trek, The Nutcracker, 12 Days of Christmas, bears, cows, pigs, flamingos, Green Bay Packers, dogs, Santas, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, M&Ms, lobsters and Chef Boy ‘R Mine’s ornaments made in school. It’s a treasure.

Tomorrow, I’ll start the the “big tree” – a truly monumental undertaking.  While the “little tree” is all whimsy and chaos, the “big tree” is all elegance and sparkle.  It too will provoke stop-overs on Memory Lane.  Most of the ornaments were chosen with care to provoke remembrance of people, events, places and things.  And it’s dubbed the “big tree” because the amount of stuff on it is testament to my penchant for excess.

O.K. Mostly done!

But, it’s all good. Last year, what with one thing and another, I didn’t decorate at all. This year, it’s all coming out and going up, down, on or in. Most of it will be up for months as I’m using this time of relatively empty closets to paint them, shelf them, and, ahem, organize the hell out of them.  There will be whining.  Right now, however, I’m glorying in my favorite part of the holiday – Christmas trees.

I hope that right now you are doing what it is that you most love about this time of year. And if you’re not, that you will be soon. Now, of course, you and I both realize that the best part of this time of year is spending time with the folks we love. I’ve been doing some of that and will be doing more of it in the days to come, but right now I’m in a decorating frenzy and loving every second of it.

Snow Day at Grandma’s

As I mentioned, my mom is now operating a doggie daycare for the Beautiful Babette.  Between one thing and another, I went to work yesterday, but Babette stayed in my house.  MY HOUSE.  Not Grandma’s.  NOT GRANDMA’S. 

Today, she wasn’t having any of that nonsense. 

I opened the door and off she went – headfirst into snow deeper than she is tall.  She soon figured out how to scamper across the surface of the snow (more or less) about the time I figured out how to shoot video on the phone.  In trying to get the video from the phone to Youtube, we lost the last few seconds, the quality grossly degraded, etc. etc. etc.  But I’m tickled. My first video.  Cecilia B. DeMille is born.

Babette was most certainly ready for her close-up, but only because I was taking far too long to get Grandma’s door open.

[So there was all sorts of foolishness with the video being sideways, a format I couldn’t work with, etc. etc.  I’ve got another learning curve to tackle.]

Hoo Boy! Guess what Santa’s bringing me?

Fa La la!

This year I’m getting brakes for Christmas.  It’s not quite a lump of coal, but it feels like it. 

One of the problems of driving an aging car is that these things happen; and these things happen at the most inconvenient times.

The other day the brakes felt wooshy jittery and I suspected that the mechanic and I would be having a date soon.  I prayed, loudly, with incense and much lamentation, for our date to occur in January.

No such luck. 

We’re having uncommon snow and cold this December with a storm expected in later tonight.  My inner adult sqaubbled with my inner child and persuaded her that the pleasure of working brakes was indeed greater than the pleasure of giving gifts.  It’s ever so nice to be able to stop the car especially when icy roads send it into a spin.

I can’t remember what it was last year, but early December found me plunking down a significant amount of cash for some sort of car repair.  Perhaps this is a new holiday tradition.

Car repairs seem to arrive in my life when I can least afford them. One year, I took the broken regularator from a 1980 Honda Accord, painted it pink, slapped a flower decal on it, hung it from a green card and told my mother it was her Mother’s Day gift.  She was amused.

We’ll see what she thinks of decopauged book ends made of brake rotors.  On second thought, they would make a better gift for my dad.  Perhaps Mom will like placemats made out of worn out brake pads.  (What do brake pads look like?  Coasters, maybe? Dresser doily?)

Fa La La!

[Dear Santa, next year I want a new Subaru.]

Edited to add:  I went and picked up the car.  Paid heaps of money.  And then…AND THEN caused quite a stir when I asked for my rotors.  “Your what, ma’am?”  I want my rotors.  “Um, sure.”  Next thing I know the manager arrives asking me what he can do to help.  I tell him nothing that I’m fine.  “I thought there was a problem.”  Um, no.  I don’t thinks so.  “You were asking about your rotors?”  Yes, I want them.  I’m going to paint them a glossy black, paint my father’s monogram on them, and give them to him for Christmas.  “Oh.”

Never met a tree I didn’t like.

I have never met a Christmas tree I didn’t like.  Every year, without fail, I proclaim whichever tree I’m looking at as “the prettiest ever.”  I haven’t gotten my home trees up yet.  It’s a daunting project and I need to wait until I’ve got a fair span of uninterrupted time.  I’m thinking this weekend will prove to be relativelyvoid of extracurricular activities.

I was talking to my mom the other day.  I don’t remember how it came up, but I mentioned that a couple of years ago I saw a purple Christmas tree which would have been perfect for my lavender office. 

In the six years I’ve been at this place of employment, I haven’t gotten around to any sort of holiday decoration.  Since Christmas trees are, hands down, my favorite part of the holiday, this state of affairs is pitiful.

In what can only be termed a Christmas miracle, mom ran across a purple, table-top tree.  While I was wallowing on the couch at home, she marched in, handed me a purple tree and 16 silver balls and then marched out.  Woo Hoo!

I added a silver ribbon, some teeny-tiny ornaments and an old scarf for the skirt.  Voila!  It’s the prettiest tree ever.