After listing my reasons for purchasing an economy sized-nutcracker for my preschoolers earlier this week you’d think that I’d be particularly careful with the linchpin of my Tchaikovsky lesson plans. You’d also think that think that after dating seventeen different men I’d have someone other than my mother offering to take me to The Nutcracker this year, but nutcrackers have a curious way of hurling themselves onto the floor when you’re not looking, and men… don’t even get me started on men.
Everything was going according to plan (by which I mean my $5.00 Rite-Aid nutcracker was still intact) until my second class of the day. I unfurled my bedazzled American Girl doll in all her Clara/Marie glory and passed her around to the great delight of my students (“Her eyes open!” “Her eyes close!” “Can we call her Sally?”), but when I retrieved the nutcracker from his hiding place, he promptly ejected himself from my grasp and bounced across the floor.
Wood, unfortunately, does not bounce. He lost an arm in the process but being the quick thinker that I am, I scooped him right up and seized the opportunity to deliver an important lesson about dramatic interpretation in the performing arts:
Look friends! I’m acting out the story, because dancers use their bodies to tell stories! Remember the part when Marie’s brother, Fritz, throws the Nutcracker on the floor? Well, Miss Kat has thrown the nutcracker on the floor just like Fritz! Now let’s all take a turn throwing the nutcracker on the floor. That’s right, friends, throw that crummy $5.00 nutcracker on the floor! Throw, throw! Now let’s practice our stomping. Let’s stomp on the nutcracker and smash him to bits! Get those knees up—that’s right! Stomp smash, stomp smash, stomp smash. Smash that nutcracker just like Fritz! Woohoo!
Actually, I didn’t do any of that. I simply pocketed the nutcracker’s dislocated shoulder and thanked my lucky stars that he hadn’t dislocated his jaw.
“Look at his mouth,” I instructed my students. “He’s called a nutcracker because he uses his teeth to crack nuts!”
I had considered bringing in an actual nut to demonstrate his nut-cracking powers—not a walnut, given his size and rather shoddy craftsmanship, but a small nut, like a pistachio or one of those freaky peanuts that come one to a shell—but then I remembered that like 9 in 10 kids have peanut allergies these days so I began to consider a variety of nut substitutes. Maybe a bean or a wadded up strip of paper or—
“Who wants to stick their finger into the nutcracker’s mouth?”
Sometimes great ideas just come to me. It’s a gift, I guess.
“Me! Me! Me!”
I have never seen so many hands shoot into the air, and if I’d had any qualms about my rather questionable methods for introducing my students to Tchaikovsky, these were immediately forgotten in light of the dozens of fingers wiggling anxiously in my direction—especially because the bodies attached to these fingers had stopped wiggling in eager anticipation of getting “cracked.”
And thus it was to a straight line of angelic, wide eyed, non-squirming four year olds that I presented the broken-armed, finger-biting nutcracker.
You’d think that after five or six tries, sticking your finger into the mouth of a Rite-Aid nutcracker, recoiling in horror, howling with laughter and finally demanding “Do it again!” would lose its appeal, but trust me on this one: to a four year old, there is nothing more exciting.
After concluding the first phase of my Tchaikovsky initiation, I raided the supplies cabinet for some Elmer’s glue and glued the nutcracker’s arm back in place.
“Guess who broke the nutcracker?” I quizzed my parents later that evening (actually, I said “Guess who was the first to break the nutcracker?” because there’s no way our little finger-cracker is going to make it to the Holiday Song Concert in one piece).
In unison, they rattled off the name of my most consistently-mischievous student.
“Nope!” I declared, grinning in triumph.
Automatically, they rattled off the name of my second most consistently-mischievous student.
The honor of my third most consistently-mischievous student rotates, kind of like the extra seat on the UN Security Council except it has more to do with the weather, the sugar-to-fiber content of that morning’s breakfast and a whole host of mysterious factors I’m still trying to work out. And so, to save my parents the trouble, I simply announced, “It was me! Miss Kat broke the nutcracker!”
Despite being a dance teacher, grace has never really been my thing (which is probably why I’m angling for tickets to see Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker—and going around “biting” my students fingers with a wooden facsimile— as opposed to actually dancing The Nutcracker this year) but have Elmer’s, will travel, with or without Date #17.
(More on that story on Monday.)