Last night we achieved an accomplishment that was decades in the making.
We drove granddaughter Sofia home from her debut performance of the Nutcracker suite ballet. She was stunning in her fancy hair style and make up. She executed her role as an enthusiastic “Polichinelle” to perfection. That’s the scene where a gang of a dozen 10 year olds crowd under the huge tent like skirt of Mother Ginger.
Ginger is a character who enters the stage on stilts, with the dozen urchins concealed under her billowing dress. Once she reaches center stage, urchins emerge, bounce, jump, cavort, go wild to the thunderous applause of the audience. Then they retreat underneath Mrs. Ginger and are not seen again.
We asked Sofia about the problems of so many kids all crowded under the skirt, nervously shuffling sideways and bumping into each other.
“It was stuffy, but all went well in the beginning,” Sofia reported. “Then Mother Ginger passed wind. We nearly suffocated.”
We concluded this was fake news and the gas never really happened. But it was such an irresistible joke that it had to be invented. Since Tchaikovsky wrote the ballet more than a hundred years ago, every group of ten year old Pollychinelles has come up with the same nasty story. It must be a secret tradition of the theater.
Sofia’s role was not the most coveted rung on the Corps de Ballet ladder, but after a string of serious ballerinas doing endless twirling pirouettes, Grande Jete and Plie’ dressed in their angle white costumes, the rough and tumble urchin gang got the most applause, more than the prima ballerina.
Or maybe this was just chauvinistic grandpa’s perception.
In this case, it is not Sofia’s performance I wish to talk about: It is mine.
Sofia’s role required a few months of rehearsal time to perform. Our role took seven decades. First we had to find each other, make a home, a family and a life together- about ten years for that stage. Then there was bearing and bringing up two children of our own, coaching, hoping and praying that they might be prepared for similar family success. There is no problem calculating our cost of college tuition, sports equipment, and music lessons.
It is more difficult to find the metrics for measuring the sleepless nights, carpooling, PTA meetings, their awkward first dates, and then their leaving home. Those events were more difficult to measure but were still memorable and consumed nothing less than a lifetime. To perform our role took more than a few hours of rehearsal.
Some theater goers might ask what we two fuddy-duddy old grandparents sitting in the back row of the theater have to do with Sofia’s ballet performance, her exuberant smile and gorgeous costume? All the applause goes to her on stage and her parents backstage. They did everything to make the night a success. We’d take nothing away from them. Nevertheless, after leaving the theater late that quiet evening we dropped Sofia off at her home. She smiled to us a “Thank you for coming Mimi and Jiji”.
As we watched her skip happily to the front door, we took pride in our own role and what we had brought about. That was worth all the applause in the world and we secretly take a bow.