My niece will be turning 11 this month. Every year around this time I think about one of our first outings together. I, Uncle Al, had invited her to see the National Ballet of Canada's Nutcracker when she was three (almost four).
For an uncle, an outing like this is quite special. It gave me an opportunity to share my passion for the performing arts and the loveliness of Tchaikovsky’s music. (The pas de deux at the end of the second act is one of my favourites to behold especially at this time of year.)
It also put my baby-sitting skills to the test. We'd people-watch, and admire the spectacle – the costumes, music and dancing. And after the ballet, I arranged for us to sip hot chocolate and maybe share a grilled cheese sandwich.
What a perfect plan!
The Nutcracker is considered to be an introductory ballet. It's kid-friendly and my niece, who was very easy to take care of, wasn't rambunctious at all. The one rule her mom gave was that if she needed to go to the bathroom: “Tell Uncle Al. He'll take you.”
When we found our seats, I prepped her on what would happen: "Soon, it's going to get dark because they're going to turn down the lights. When this happens, look toward the stage. You'll see the conductor who will poke his head up from the orchestra pit as the spotlight shines on him. He'll wave as the audience applauds. And then, the music will start. Soon after, the curtain will rise and the show will begin."
She listened attentively to all of my earnest blathering. My thinking was to prepare her for what to expect. There's a lot to take in if you're three (almost four) years old. The formerly-named Hummingbird is a big house, so I think she was intrigued by plenty of things including thousands of people, all dressed festively.
Too small to see the stage from atop her booster seat, she contentedly sat in my lap throughout most of act one. At intermission, we ate a cookie and drank some juice. I was in heaven.
At the end of the second act, as the ballet was approaching the big pas de deux, she whispered: "Uncle Al, I need to go to the bathroom." Perhaps too caught up in my own personal bliss, I didn't hear her clearly, so she repeated and nudged: "Uncle Al, I need to go to the bathroom NOW!"
I returned to earth.
In the dark, we raced down the aisle toward the stage and across to the wings where we found an exit and eventually a restroom.
I had missed seeing the pas de deux. I had seen it performed several times prior without my niece and many times afterward with her. But this one performance stands out. It was a little more fun, a little more meaningful. It was the first time I shared one of my interests with her. On a snowy December day, like many aunts and uncles on their first outings with their nieces and nephews, I discovered the joys of thinking like a kid, celebrating all wonders both anticipated and unplanned.
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