Well, I could tell a story about my father but I never called my father Papa, so I don’t think that’s appropriate. But when I was a child I read a lot of fairy tales and stories in which the father was called Papa, so I’ll write about one of those. My favorite storybook was The Nutcracker. Not just any edition, mind you, but the hardcover 1985 edition retold by Ronald Kidd and illustrated by Rick Reinert. No other version will do. I must have read that book hundreds of times as a child. Naturally, every time I did, I imagined I was Clara. The nutcracker that my mother had on her roll top desk every Christmas was my favorite holiday decoration, and I lay in bed every night during winter break waiting for it to come to life. The rats, well, those I could without. I didn’t need the nutcracker to save me from anything, just to come to life and dance with me.

That book was so special to me that I went to see the Nutcracker Ballet at the famousĀ Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg my first Christmas in Russia. There was simply no question of taking a trip elsewhere or of not getting tickets. I had to see it and I had to see it there. I also have a lifelong dream of spending a Christmas in Vienna and seeing it there as well. That probably won’t happen this year, but soon. Continue reading →