|Photo courtesy of The Colorado Ballet|
When I was four years old, my beloved grandmother, Mimi, started a tradition with me. That year she took me to my first ever performance of The Nutcracker ballet. I had just begun dance lessons myself that year.
This was a tradition that began in 1975, and it carried on through 2008. Thirty-three years. Thirty-three wonderful, special years.
I know that there are pictures of Mimi and I together for our first ballets. I don't have them, but I know they exist. I have some others that are packed away from when I was a little bit older. They're inaccessible to me right now, mostly because my wrist is unable to move heavy bins of photographs around. Because I can't share them with you, let me give you an idea about what these outings were like.
Although the ballet opened near Thanksgiving, we always bought tickets to see it as close to Christmas as we could. Mom would almost always make me a dress especially for the occasion, and Mimi and I would get all dressed up to go. I'd usually sleep over the night before - not always, but often. We'd go to the 2:00 matinee, driving through the festively decorated streets of downtown Denver as we made our way to the theater on 15th and Curtis.
Downtown Denver was a magical place to me when I was little - especially at Christmas time. That was before I grew up and got a job there. That was before I had to drive through traffic, find parking and all that adult nonsense.
|16th Street Mall|
|Larimer Square (Both photos courtesy of Fine Art Colorado)|
You know, back when I was sheltered and innocent. :)
The theater always seemed so huge, and I knew every tiny detail of the story by heart. I knew exactly what was going to happen next, and yet, I eagerly anticipated it every single year.
Mimi and I had two favorite places to eat. We'd either go to Josephina's, (located on Larimer Street which is pictured above) or to The Spaghetti Factory after the ballet. Josephina's is now closed, but we ate there many times. We'd sit at dinner and talk about the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince. It was usually cold, if not snowing, and it was always so much fun.
The Nutcracker was Christmas.
The tradition started with Mimi and I, but anyone who wanted to go was welcome to come. Many years my mom or my aunts and cousins would come with us. It wasn't exclusively for the two of us, but the two of us always went.
In 2003, Maya went to the Nutcracker for the first time. She was four and a half, and she had started dance about a year before. It was so fun sharing this tradition with her. She was just as awed and excited about it as I had always been as a small child.
|Mom made us matching dresses|
It was special to me that Maya got to experience this magical event with Mimi.
And in 2005, Mimi and I celebrated 30 years of our Nutcracker tradition.
|Click on the photo if you want to see Mom's 30th anniversary sweatshirts in detail. She rocks.|
This was in 2006 ...
... and in 2007, things took a different turn. Maya was eight years old and dancing for the Belliston Academy of Dance. They were known for their exceptional production of the Nutcracker and had performed it in a theater near the Denver University campus for more than twenty years. Maya went through auditions in August of that year, and earned herself the part of a mouse. (She was also a stand in for another part as well.) The family shifted from the Colorado Ballet to Belliston and Mimi (and most of our family) came to watch Maya perform.
|Jennifer Wing - Mouse Mom|
Maya was also a mouse in Belliston's 2008 Nutcracker.
|Maya with Aaron Belliston, who played the Sugar Plum Fairy's cavalier. Oh my goodness, these two. They were quite fond of one another.|
|She had a hard time coming out of character|
Unfortunately, this was the last Nutcracker I got to attend with Mimi. About six weeks after this performance, my family and I packed up and moved to North Carolina.We weren't in the position financially to fly back for the holidays. From North Carolina, we then went to Germany.
|A sweet drawing rendered by Scotty in 2010|
In 2014, we came back to Colorado. Mimi was no longer here. She passed away in May, 2013. In honor of her and our long-standing tradition, Maya and I went to the Pikes Peak Event Center and saw the Oklahoma City Ballet perform the Nutcracker.
|Me and my girl|
I loved going to the Nutcracker. Every one of those thirty-three years with Mimi was special. I've put the tradition on hold. Maybe when I become a grandmother, I'll have kiddos interested in the ballet. Then I might start it back up again and do for them what Mimi did for me.