December 31, 2010

A Quiet New York

For Christmas this year our Nonna and Nonno took my siblings and I to see the Nutcracker performed in the city. 

The six of us rose and donned formal attire and our long, black coats (you'd have thought we were going to funeral) and shuffled out into the car and into our (in)famous suburban- yes, the one I passed the test on- and into yet another surreal experience as I drove the sum and total of my parent's offspring off into the day- newly blanked in white by our recent eastern blizzard.

We "picked up" (so to speak) our grandparents and they drove us down into Manhattan. The roads have yet to be completely cleared of snow- great walls rise everywhere, and already-narrow highways are that much narrower. (Almost) everyone is wearing boots- I see a mother pick up her little girl (in tights and dress shoes) and carry her across the street. I smile. But by the end of the day I too would be carried.

On passing tennis courts on the West Side by the Hudson River Nonno told us, "This is the best place to play tennis in the city." Nonna proceeded to tell us how the city was going to black-top the red-clay courts and the community had risen up to save them and formed groups to take care of the clay. Later we passed another set of courts near an overpass and then we were told, "This is the worst place to play tennis in the city. Because you have all this noise around- it's like playing in Hell. While in  [another place] every 15 minutes you hear the bells in the church go off- so it's like playing in Heaven."

We pull into a parking lot near the Opera house and off we set- the eight of us. My sister and I all too soon come to rue with amusement our choice of (identical) dress heals. The snow is melting and at each crossing there are pathways carved into the dirty embankments- fraught with slush and great puddles. The first one we wade through- and my foot (and shoe) is made entirely wet. To avoid this mistake on the next crossing we go over the snow to avoid the puddles- but there one of Sarah's shoes comes off in the snow.

Inside the building we get our tickets and find our seats. Though the theater was sold out when we bought them, the storm has kept many people home and we ended up being able to move to better seats.

I dry my shoe off in the lady's room. There are many little girls. An older woman, short, Italian, red haired- having seen me earlier with Annie, asks, "Has she seen Sleeping Beauty?" "No," I answer, "but she has Swan Lake." "She should see Sleeping Beauty... and a Midsummer's Night's Dream... and Coppélia. Those are good for children." She says this emphatically- we smile at one another- she walks away.

The Nutcracker begins. Tchaikovsky! Costumes! Sets! The maids scurry about the kitchen- mice come piling out of cupboards and pots and pans. A laugh murmurs throughout the crowd. My little sister is smiling.

My favorite parts where when the snowflakes danced- their blue dresses shimmering- the light turning them golden- their endless fall to the stage floor. Then there was the waltz of the flowers- when the four manly bees tossed the 16 pink flowers back and forth between them. And the duet between the prince and princess! This was different than in other renditions of the story, for while having a child play the part of Clara they had her imagine (or dream) of herself grown up with the nutcracker- thus suitably introducing a romantic dance with two adult leads. It was perfect- "strong men dancing with beautiful women" (as my brother put it) - what could be better?

After the intermission a very Dickenish old-man (large jowls- wild gray hair, and spectacles) sat down in the chair behind me and proceeded to yell rather loudly and hoarsely at me if I leaned forward, obstructing his view. I watched the remainder of the show with my black glued to the chair. Still, his presence was not enough to break the entrancement spun by the dancers we watched. The snow fell. The couple was wedded. The vision faded- Clara awoke (wondering if it had all been a dream)- and we left happy.

We waited in line at the parking lot for our car to be ready. All the little children were having a snow-ball fight. 

We went to our favorite restaurant - Flor De Mayo. We ordered what we always order- chicken, rice, beans, maduros, and avocado-salad. It is one of my favorite meals in the whole world- and traditionally it is eaten by our family in silence. The food vanishes in moments.

Back to our vehicle- back into the snow. Jonathan helped us across puddles- straddling them with his long legs and helping us one by one leap across. At the next snowy abstraction he simply grabbed my sister and I by our wastes and twirled us around him to the other side (after ballets, we always feel a bit like twirling and leaping). We got caught a bit in the piles of snow- so the ballerina effect was slightly marred- but it was the thought that counted.

I have never seen the city so quiet. Every street was lined with cars walled in with snow- a good third of NYC's vehicles weren't on the road. All meter and parking restrictions are currently canceled. The trains are running 3 hours late. On some roads (which to my memory cars have never parked on) there are vehicles in odd positions- where it seems that drivers were caught in the blizzard and pulled over where they could- the snow burying them- and their cars still sit there, awaiting resurrection.

The snow smothers. It covers. It keeps. And all is quiet- and half asleep. We make our way back up to northern New York- we drop off our grandparents and I drive my siblings back to the warm of our home. And then we, too, sleep and dream.

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