As we jumped into the limo in front of the theater, I told the driver, “Just shoot me.” Okay, the driver was my husband, the limo was his Corolla and we were picked up in front of a Whataburger, but the rest is true.

For Chloe’s birthday last month I designed a set of 12 cards representing activities we could do throughout the year, some as simple as going to a local splash pad, others fairly ambitious outings.

One of 12 birthday cards
One of 12 birthday cards

I included “The Nutcracker” because she took ballet briefly and her class had a field trip to the Long Center and heard some of the music. She was excited about going and had stuck reminder post-its all over the refrigerator.

I made sure she had a good lunch, wore comfortable clothes and had necessary bathroom stops before the show. Having a “driver” reduced the stress of traffic and parking. We arrived in plenty of time and had good seats. It was a matinée and I told her she could fidget; nobody was behind her so she could stand or sit high on the seat.

Waiting for the show

Waiting for the show

It’s been nearly 20 years since I saw The Nutcracker with a girl I was mentoring, and I had forgotten how long and–heresy!–tedious it is. With latecomers delaying the curtain and the pre-show nonsense (basically ads for Ballet Austin), it got under way about 20 minutes late. Much of the first act is mostly expository, and really, watching little boys strut around with wooden swords gets old. (Chloe liked the mice and rats best. Go figure.) By the time we got to the Land of Snow, she was in my lap, with her abundant hair in my mouth and eyes, and 10 minutes before intermission she kept whispering, “Gramma, I have to go to the bathroom real bad.” I managed to hold her off until the lights came up, when we charged in front of the five or six people in our row. Surely, I thought, the second act is livelier and more fun, with sugar-plum fairies and Gilbert Tuhabonye of Gilbert’s Gazelles as Mother Ginger.

More heresy: The dance numbers were excessively long. The story makes absolutely no sense. Chloe asked to leave about 15 minutes before it ended, but I was not about to stomp over those people again. Trying to keep her quiet escalated from “shhh” and “hush” in the first act to “shut up” and, finally, “If you don’t shut up we’re not making cookies tomorrow” in the second act.

She added insult to injury by getting snotty that I wouldn’t buy her any souvenirs,  even though I had told her in advance the tickets were very expensive, we had snacks and water and were buying nothing. I called Gary to pick us up and gave him the first “just shoot me” request.

In the evening we took in the old Austin tradition, the Trail of Lights and Zilker tree. Having lived near Zilker Park, I call it the Trial of Lights because it’s so crowded. But it was a mild, clear evening, the shuttle buses were efficient and Gary and Chloe had the ritual spin under the tree.

You're not an Austinite until you've spun under the Zilker Christmas tree

You’re not an Austinite until you’ve spun under the Zilker Christmas tree

Looking up into the "tree"

Looking up into the “tree”

We stayed home Sunday morning and baked cookies. In past attempts at baking, Chloe bailed after a few minutes, but she stuck with it from measuring ingredients, mixing flour into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, rolling and cutting shapes and baking six dozen. (She loves to pretend we’re doing a cooking show, so we stopped periodically for a commercial or to adjust the “camera.”) Other than a few we sampled (she preferred the raw dough), the rest await the kids and grandkids’ visit on Christmas eve. I bake but don’t decorate. We hose down the tablecloth afterwards. Naturally they’re the prettiest cookies any grandmother ever had.

Bare naked cookies

Bare naked cookies

We closed the weekend with a solstice party at friends’ who have a great yard, a fire pit, and about a million cookies. Chloe ran around outside with a posse of other kids and ate very little; we took her home for her mother to feed.

My husband claimed veto power if I even think of trying The Nutcracker again. He won’t need it. But the rest of the weekend was for the memory book, or as Chloe said, “I love making cookies with my Gramma!”

She also made a Christmas gift for Lammy and Shambit, her pet lambs. It’s a snail rodeo made of modeling clay.

Lammy and Shambit will get a snail rodeo for Christmas

Lammy and Shambit will get a snail rodeo for Christmas


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