Growing up, I knew my parents didn’t have much money. My dad worked in a factory and my mom was a part-time house cleaner. After the mortgage, food and bills, they didn’t have a lot left for extras — $10 a week to be exact. (Even in the early eighties, that did not go very far.)
My parents did their best. We had a house, but we grew up in a sketchy part of town. Ok, probably the sketchiest part. We shopped at Woolworths or Biway. If my winter boots blew a hole, I had to use plastic grocery bags as liners to keep my feet dry. There was no such thing as buying another pair.
I knew my sister and I would never go to Disneyland or summer camp or take lessons of any sort. And every Christmas, when I’d watch The Nutcracker on CBC, I knew there was no point in asking to see it live. We couldn’t even afford to go to a movie.
Instead, I sat transfixed in front of our tiny TV in the basement to watch the Nutcracker come to life, the battle with the evil Mouse King and the ultimate — the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Like many little girls over the past 120 years, I couldn’t imagine anything more magical or beautiful than the movements of those dancers. It was all sparkles and candy and fairy dust.
When I had my daughter, I knew at some point we would see The National Ballet of Canada‘s performance of The Nutcracker. I wanted to wait until she was old enough. She’s now seven, so this was going to be the year. I had planned to get tickets for her for Christmas, but something even better was in the works.
A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to actually perform in the ballet as a Cannon Doll. I could invite my best friend from high school to be my partner on stage and, best of all, we could bring both our daughters.
So today, we joined the likes of Rick Mercer, Margaret Atwood, Kurt Browning and other Cannon Doll alumni. For me, putting on that fun costume was a huge honour. I watched the dancers prepare backstage, I met some of the stage crew and none other than Rex Harrington himself showed us our parts. (If Karen Kain had walked in, I think I would have passed out.)
As we sat in the audience to watch Act 2, I could hear my daughter whisper, “oh wow,” “that’s amazing” and “she’s sooo beautiful.” For a couple of hours, I relived the magic I felt at her age.
And now I can definitely say that little girls’ dreams do come true. Sometimes it just takes 30 years.