Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nutcracker Albatross

"...when you're young your opponent is the future; but when you are not young, your opponent is the past and everything you've done in it and the problem of getting away from it."
-- Independence Day, Richard Ford.

Every year, the rituals of December -- shopping, Christmas trees, Rudolph on TV (the Burl Ives version, of course), Charlie Brown, A Christmas Carol -- take me inevitably to the Nutcracker Ballet.

Back. I go back to December, 1985. Sophomore year in a not-so-small Northern California college. I was dating this girl. We've been dating a week or two at most. But the dopey, naive, optimistic romantic in me bought two tickets to the Nutcracker Ballet for Christmas.

But there was still the matter of the road trip. She wanted a ride home to Los Angeles for the holiday. I agreed since it was on the way. It was a long, long ride. We didn't argue or anything. We discovered we didn't have that much in common. Not enough even to argue about.

I'm not sure exactly when we broke up, what small town we were passing. But definitely before the Grapevine, I believe, we came to a silent, mutual decision. I know we got to her parents' home and she got out, to both our relief. There was no word of a ride back. No peck on the cheek. Maybe a slight, weary wave.

Come Christmas time, I still had those two tickets to the Nutcracker. Which I didn't have the heart to give away or sell. Or to actually use.

Today, 20 some Christmases later, her face is gone, her name lost. But every year I see newspaper ads about various Nutcracker productions and the Proustian ballet suits up in my head. So yeah, to this day, I still haven't seen the Nutcracker.

I need to let this go. Really. Maybe next year I'll take the family to the ballet.

Photo: stock.xchng. Walnut by Channah.