The Nutcracker

Synopsis:

She so wanted to be a ballerina and dance the Nutcracker, but . . .

The Nutcracker

by Dru

Story:

The Nutcracker

by Dru

Jamie Evans was born in New York City on Christmas day 1995. He was the only son of Elaine Evans. His mother was twenty-four years old when Jamie was born. She had never married Jamie’s father. In fact, Jamie had never met his father. He had asked his mother about his father once. She said he was a dancer she had dated for a short time and he then went back to France. She had written him to let him know that she was pregnant but he never responded. Elaine was also a dancer. She had attended Juilliard and danced for the New York Ballet. She also danced with other ballet troupes around the country as a visiting artist.

Fortunately for both Jamie and his mother, Elaine’s parents fully supported Elaine’s decision to keep the baby and helped to care for Jamie when Elaine had to practice, perform, or travel. As Jamie grew up he was very close to his grandparents. However, the relationship between Jamie and Elaine was very special. Even when Jamie was four or five he would sit in rapt attention as his mother described her experiences as a dancer. She would tell him how it felt to dance in her toe shoes as she turned round and round; or what it was like to run across the stage, leap high in the air and be caught in the strong arms of her dance partner.

One day when he was six Jamie asked his mother, “What was your favorite role to dance?”

Elaine thought for a moment and then responded, “That is a very difficult question. I have enjoyed all my dancing and each ballet calls on different skills and techniques, but I think my first dance as a lead dancer is still my favorite, it was the ‘Nutcracker’.”

“I danced it when I was eleven. I had been dancing for six years and knew I wanted to be a ballerina. I had practiced and practiced and when I won the part of Clara I don’t think I had ever been happier -- that is not until you were born. Anyway, the ‘Nutcracker’ will always be my favorite because it was my first.”

“Mommy, what is the ‘Nutcracker’ about?”

“Jamie, it is a very sweet fairytale about a young girl who is named Clara Stahlbaum. The story takes place in the Stahlbaums' home, where a Christmas party is being held. Clara and her little brother Fritz were allowed to attend the party which was being hosted by their mother and father. Many of their friends and family are in attendance. Herr Drosselmeyer the children’s mysterious godfather, enters the room. He produces a large bag of gifts for all the children, except Clara. He then produces three life-sized dolls with whom all the children and adults dance. When the dances are finished, Clara approaches Herr Drosselmeyer wondering if she was to receive a gift. Herr Drosselmeyer acts as though he is out of presents, and Clara runs to her mother in tears.

Herr Drosselmeyer then produces a toy Nutcracker. But it is not your typical nutcracker, it is a soldier with a sword, medals and looks like a Prince. Clara carefully studies the nutcracker as her smile grows and then holds it to her chest. She is so excited with the gift she sets the nutcracker on a table and hugs her Godfather and thanks him for the best present she has ever received. However, her brother Fritz is jealous, and breaks the Nutcracker. Clara falls to the ground in tears. Drosselmeyer picks up the pieces of the broken nutcracker and hands it to Clara. Somehow, magically the nutcracker is made whole again. Clara again smiles and hugs Herr Drosselmeyer.

The party ends several hours later and the Stahlbaum family goes off to bed. Her parents make Claea leave the Nutcracker under the Christmas tree, but Clara is concerned about her Nutcracker, and quietly sneaks down stairs to the Christmas tree to make sure her Nutcracker is safe. She falls asleep under the tree with the Nutcracker clutched in her arms.

When the hall clock strikes midnight, Clara awakes. As she looks around, she hears the sound of mice. She tries to run up to her parents’ room, but the mice stop her. Perhaps she is still dreaming as she shrinks down to the size of the other toys under the Christmas tree. The Nutcracker comes to life and turns into a Prince. He and his soldiers stand to defend Clara. The Mouse King leads his mice into battle against the toy soldiers. As the battle rages Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse King. The slipper hits the Mouse King in the head and he turns to attack Clara. The Nutcracker is then able to stab the Mouse King and the King dies. The other mice retreat, taking their dead leader with them. The Nutcracker and Clara dance away. There is more to the story, but that is the main part.”

“Mom, that is such a wonderful story. Can I take dancing lessons so I can dance the Nutcracker?” asked Jamie.

“Jamie, you are too young for the part and only ballerinas can dance the part of Clara. Though you could dance the part of the Nutcracker.”

“But mom, the best part is that of Clara.”

“I know dear, but only ballerinas can dance the part of Clara.”

“I can be a ballerina.”

“I’m sorry son, but only girls can be ballerinas.”

“Why mom? If I learn how to dance and can dance the part why can’t I be a ballerina? Why can’t I be Clara?”

“Jamie, you are a boy, boys can dance ballet, but they can’t be ballerinas.”

“But mommy, I want to be a girl, I want to be the best dancer ever and be Clara.”

The conversation ended with Elaine trying to convince Jamie that he couldn’t be a ballerina and Jamie convinced that there was no reason he couldn’t be a girl or a ballerina.
She did agree that Jamie could take dance lessons. Over the following years Jamie continued with his dance studies and Elaine continued to dance to support her son and herself. Whenever she would have to be gone, even for extended periods, her parents would take care of Jamie.

Jamie progressed with his lessons and became a very good dancer in his own right. He was always one of the central figures in the recitals and performances of his dance troupe. When he was eight he was chosen to be one of the Sugarplums in the Nutcracker for a local production. All through this time Jamie wanted to be a ballerina. But his mother maintained that a boy couldn’t be a ballerina.

***

Jamie never told anyone, but, he knew something was wrong with him. He had no desire to play sports or wrestle as other boys did. He wanted to dance and do the things girls did. Most of all he wanted to be a girl. He knew that someone, probably a doctor in the hospital, made a mistake. He knew he had boys parts down below and everyone considered him to be a boy, but he knew he was really a girl.

If he could find the doctor, Jamie would tell the doctor that the doctor needed to fix the mistake that the doctor made. Jamie believed that it would be a simple thing to make things right. When he was eight he decided to ask his mom to take him to the doctor.

“Mom, I need to go to the doctor. Can you make an appointment for me?”

“Jamie, are you sick? Why do you need to go to the doctor?”

“The doctor made a mistake when I was born.”

“What kind of mistake?”

“He made me a boy instead of a girl, I need to go back to him and have him fix it.”

Elaine had to stifle a laugh, because she could tell that Jamie was serious. “Jamie, that’s something he can’t fix. Once you’re born a boy that is what you are.”

“But mom, I know I’m a girl. I might have a boy’s body, but I’m a girl.”

“Honey, I know you’ve spent a lot of time with me and you don’t have a father in your life and you haven’t had a chance to do boy things. It’s just . . .”

Jamie interrupted, “Mom, you don’t understand. I don’t like to do boy things. I don’t like to play ball and all the other things I have to do because I am a boy. I want to be a girl. It’s what I have wanted since I was four or five. I’m a girl on the inside I just need the outside changed. I’ve gone to bed every night hoping I will wake up the next morning a girl. Will you help me or not?”

“I think I understand what you are saying. Would it be okay if I took some time to think about it?”

“Sure mom, but I’m not going to change my mind.”

That night after Jamie went to bed Elaine sat in the livingroom of their condo overlooking the city with a glass of wine on the table beside her. She was lost in thought. She thought back to when she was pregnant with Jamie. She was positive she was going to have a girl. She had even picked out her name, Jamie. She almost cried when they told her she had given birth to a son, but one look at her precious child and she knew she would love that child whether it was a girl or a boy.

As Jamie grew up she had tried to expose him to boy things. She signed him up for T-ball and soccer. Jamie had no interest in any of that. She would often find him in his room coloring or spinning around imitating her dancing. When she became successful as a dancer, she bought the condo. She loved it. It was near the Arts district and overlooked a small park. It wasn’t Central Park, but it was a place she could take Jamie and let him play outside.

She had converted the third bedroom of the condo into a small dance studio where she could practice the various ballets she performed. As Jamie progressed through his lessons and improved she would find him in the practice room dancing. He would spin and leap and now that she thought about it, imitate her. Although he was only eight, he had become an accomplished dancer. However, to be a male lead in ballet he would need to grow taller and add some muscle. She wasn’t sure that would happen. He had always been near the bottom of the height and weight charts for his age whenever he had his school physicals.

Jamie had been adamant that he was going to be a ballet dancer. Even though she had told him he couldn’t be a ballerina he still wanted to take ballet lessons. She knew that male ballet dancers were not always considered “he men”. However, with the lifts they were required to do they were stronger than most people believed. Elaine was concerned that Jamie with his slight build would not have the strength to be a successful male ballet dancer.

As she sipped her wine and looked out over the city Elaine found herself questioning if what Jamie had said was true or if it was caused by living alone with his mother. She feared that she had somehow caused this situation. She didn’t want her son to suffer because she was a poor mother. She had done everything she could to provide for him, but no matter what, it was still an entirely feminine upbringing.

She had to admit that Jamie put everything into his dancing and for his age was very advanced and very good. But, what was she to do about his desire to be a girl. She had known gay dancers both male and female and a few of the men may even have been transgendered. If you worked in the dance community, you accepted the different lifestyles as normal. But this was her son, not someone else.

The next morning after Jamie went to school Elaine called her mother and arranged to go to her parent’s home for lunch. Elaine was very close to her mother and wanted her counsel.

After lunch the two of them sat in the living room and had a cup of tea. “O.K. Elaine, what has got you so upset? I don’t think I’ve seen you this way since you told me you were pregnant with Jamie. You’re not pregnant again, are you?”

“No Mom, but it is about Jamie, Have you noticed anything strange about Jamie?”

“What do you mean by strange, Elaine?”

“Well, you know I’ve raised him by myself, with Dad’s and your help. Sometimes I wonder if he hasn’t had enough male influence in his life. I’m afraid that this may have resulted in him believing that he wants to be a girl. Well really believing he is a girl but stuck in a boy’s body.”

“I want to understand what you are saying. My grandson wants to be a girl, that in fact he believes he is girl, and you think it is because he hasn’t had enough male influence in his life. Is that right?”

“Yes, something like that.”

“I thought I had raised a reasonably intelligent daughter. One who learned from her friends and knew that a person is born with their sex predetermined. All the bunk about environmental factors determining sexual preference has been discounted. I thought you understood that.”

“I do mom, but this is my son and I’m afraid that it is my fault, that somehow I caused him to be different.”

“Elaine, listen to yourself. First of all it’s not your fault, it’s not Jamie’s fault, it’s not your dad’s or my fault. Its no one’s fault. Also, Jamie isn’t different he is Jamie and he is perfectly fine. He just needs understanding and guidance. If it turns out that he is transgendered then we will deal with it. We will support him, counsel him and do what needs to be done. If on the other hand it is a passing phase, we will work through it with him.”

“But mom, if he is transgendered the other kids will abuse him and his life will be very difficult. I don’t want him to have to go through that.”

“Is it worse for him to experience that or to not be allowed to be the person he is, become depressed and withdrawn, run away or commit suicide? Which is worse?”

“Mom, it’s not that simple.”

“Yes it is dear. First do you love your child?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want your child to be happy?”

“Yes.”

“Will you do everything within your power for your child’s happiness?”

“Yes.”

“Then it is that simple. We do what we have to do for his happiness.”

“O.K. Mom, just what do we do?”

“First we let Jamie know that we love him or her whatever the case may be and will support him no matter what happens. Then we get her the best professional help to determine what is the best course of action. Elaine, you have been the best mother any child could ask to have. You have made time to share your life and love with your son. We all know that he has some very feminine traits. There are times when you look at him with his hair, his pretty face and the way he stands that you can’t help but think - ‘girl’. If his mind says he’s a girl then I think he should be allowed to be a girl, don’t you?”

“Yes, I guess I do. Thanks mom for being here for me. What do you think dad will say?”

“He loves his grandchild, what more is there to say?”

That afternoon when Jamie came home from school, his mother was waiting for him. He looked nervously at his mother. She embraced him and hugged him to her. “Jamie, I’ve thought about what we discussed and I will support you in what you want. But, we need to do it right and make sure this isn’t a passing fancy or something.”

“It isn’t mom, It’s something I’ve known forever.”

“That may be so, but before you can change you have to meet with doctors and psychologists and psychiatrists. Your grandmother and I will be making arrangements for you to have those examinations.”

“You told Grandma, how could you, it was supposed to be a secret. I’ll be so embarrassed.”

“Jamie, you want to change from a boy to a girl and you don’t think your Grandma and Grandpa won’t notice something.”

“Well, I guess I knew that, but I just didn’t think they would learn about it right away. I’m just worried what they will think.”

“They think that you are a very special child whom they dearly love. Is there anything else that matters?”

“No, I guess not.”

So, over the next several months Jamie was seen by a team of doctors and was diagnosed as suffering from Gender Dysphoria. Being only eight years old they wanted to hold off treatment until Jamie was eleven or twelve. This didn’t go over well with Jamie. She wanted the change to be complete, now. The doctors did agree that she could start living as a girl full time when she turned ten. She did dress as a girl at home and would go out with her mom and grandparents when she was dressed as a girl. However, she continued to attend school and dance lessons as a boy.

It was thought that when she started dressing that Jamie should change schools and develop new friends as a girl. The problem was that the dance community in the City knew her as a boy.

***

Elaine at the age of thirty-four realized that it was becoming harder to stay in shape and maintain her figure. She knew she could continue dancing for another year or so, but at thirty-four she was close to being considered to be over-the-hill. She was respected within the dance community and was sought after as an instructor. She decided that it was time to retire from dancing and start working for a dance troupe as a director, teacher and dance arranger. In light of Jamie’s situation she explored possibilities outside New York City. She found that the best offer came from the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

She discussed the possible move with her parents and they agreed that it would be best for her and Jamie to make the move. It was a wonderful opportunity for her and would provide a new start for Jamie. As her dad had recently retired there was even talk of her parents moving to Chicago to be near Jamie and Elaine.

So it was decided. Elaine accepted the position with the Joffrey Ballet. She sold the condo in New York and bought one in Chicago. It was on the near North. It wasn’t right on the lake but it overlooked Lincoln Park and you could see the lake from the Living Room and Dining Room. It was larger than their old one. It had four bedrooms and a study/den. The living room and dining room rn were of an open design and the view was magnificent. Elaine’s and Jamie’s rooms had their own bathrooms and overlooked the park. Elaine used one of the other bedrooms as a guest room and the last bedroom was the practice room. It was a wonderful location and they both loved the condo.

Elaine located a small academy nearby which focused on the arts. It was a small school with an excellent reputation. It was affiliated with one of the best ballet schools in Chicago and offered classes from elementary through high school. Many of its students went on to either the Chicago Art Institute, Juilliard or other nationally recognized schools. Elaine was very impressed. Jamie auditioned and was accepted into the school.

With the help of the doctors Jamie was registered as a girl. Her birth certificate hadn’t been changed but would be when she had undergone the necessary surgeries and that wouldn’t be done until she was seventeen or eighteen. She would probably start on hormones when she was twelve or thirteen. The doctors felt that by starting treatment at that time any issue with masculine traits could be avoided.

When they moved to Chicago all of Jamie’s boys clothes were sent to Good Will and she traveled to Chicago as the girl she now was - or would eventually become. Jamie could not remember ever being so happy.

They moved as soon as school was out in late May. Elaine had arranged it so that she did not start at the Joffrey until after the 4th of July so she and Jamie spent the month of June exploring and getting acquainted with Chicago. Her parents came into Chicago for the 4th of July weekend and experienced the Taste of Chicago with Elaine and Jamie. It was a wonderful time strolling through Grant Park, trying foods from different vendors and listening to the musicians who seemed to be everywhere. The fireworks for the 4th of July celebration were accompanied by the Chicago Orchestra and it was a wonderful conclusion to great day.

Jamie loved Chicago, but most of all she loved being a girl. Whether she wore shorts or dresses, she didn’t care. She was allowed to be the girl she was and she was very, very happy. Elaine noted the difference in her daughter and found her happiness contagious. Elaine had found a neighbor girl who would watch Jamie while she worked. Normally her parents did this but they were back in New York. The neighbor girl, Katherine, or as she preferred to be called, Katy, was fifteen and was happy to have a summer job.

During the day she and Jamie would hang out at the pool in the condo, go to Lincoln Park or the Lincoln Park Zoo inside of the Park. Some days they even walked over to Lake Michigan and played on the beach. For Jamie it was like having an older sister.

Katy enjoyed it because it gave her something to do and Jamie was a neat kid. Katy’s dad worked downtown so he was gone all day. Her mom had died of cancer when Katy was ten. She still missed her mom but she had worked through a lot of her issues with her counselor. On nights when her dad had to work late she would often stay at Elaine’s and have dinner with Elaine and Jamie. She found herself spending more and more time there as the summer went on. She saw the close relationship between Elaine and Jamie and found herself being drawn to the two caring people who openly shared their affections and included her in those feelings. She had missed that type of closeness since the death of her mother. At the time she didn’t realize it but Elaine slowly became a mother figure to her.

Jamie continued with her counseling and dance. She had lessons three times a week during the summer and usually practiced for two hours each day. She had quickly been accepted at her new dance school and was considered one of the most advanced for her age. She learned in late July that the school would put on a recital in the spring. The reason they didn’t do one in the winter was that usually many of the students participated in the various professional performances in the fall. These performances included Cinderella and the Nutcracker. When Jamie learned that two of the students at the school had danced the role of Clara in earlier productions of the Nutcracker she was beside herself. She had four different DVD’s of productions of the Nutcracker. She had danced to them in her practice room and so wanted to be Clara.

Unknown to her mother Jamie signed up with her school to audition for the part of Clara. Usually they wouldn’t let a ten-year-old audition but Jamie was very advanced for her age. Iort probably didn’t hurt that her mother was Elaine Evans the renown ballerina. Auditions were to be held toward the end of September and the performances would run from the Friday after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.

Jamie now focused her efforts on winning the role of Clara. She started practicing three hours a day and worked with her teachers at school on the steps she would need to dance the role of Clara. She never told her mother what she was doing. She did not practice the Nutcracker when her mother was home. She had sworn Katy to secrecy. Katy hoped her young friend wouldn’t be heartbroken if she failed to win the part. She knew that Jamie was putting her heart and soul into this effort, she didn’t want Jamie to be upset if she didn’t get the part of Clara, but knew she would be terribly disappointed. All Katy could do was be there for Jamie if that happened. That’s what you do if you care for someone. It was at that moment that Katy realized that she looked upon Jamie as her little sister. It was a wonderful feeling.

***

August began and Katy and Jamie continued to be inseparable. Katy’s friends even accepted the young interloper on a limited basis into their group. Everyone realized that the malaise that had hung over Katy since her mother died had disappeared. Instead Katy was the fun and outgoing person they remembered. If that meant that a skinny ten year old came along from time to time who cared. Their old friend was back.

Katy’s dad, Kenneth Strand, even noticed the difference in his daughter. One night in mid-August as they ate dinner together, he brought up his observations.

“Katy, you seem to be enjoying yourself this summer. I haven’t seen you this happy in a long time.”

“I know dad, it’s that I have a lot of fun with Jamie and I really enjoy spending time with Elaine, I mean Ms. Evans, Jamie’s mom. She is really pretty and she listens to me and talks with me kind of like mom used to do. Is it wrong for me to do that? Am I betraying mom?”

“No dear, you are very lucky to have someone to confide in and share your thoughts. I know we talk about things but I am really happy that you have a woman with whom you can talk about women things. I know your mom would be happy just like I am that you are lucky enough to have such a relationship. I’m just glad to see you acting like your old self again.”

“When you took the job I thought it might be too much for you and that you might feel tied down taking care of a ten year old girl. But, I think it has been good for you. I hope you haven’t felt like you’ve wasted your summer.”

“Oh no dad, Jamie’s a great kid and I have a lot of fun with her. She even gets along with my friends. She is pretty grown up for a ten year old. She’s also a really good dancer and I like watching her dance. I think she gets her talent from her mom. You know her mom was a famous ballerina before she retired.”

“No, I didn’t know that. What does she do now?”

“She works for the Joffrey Ballet as an instructor or director or something. I’m not sure.”

“Well Honey, all I know is it is nice to see you smiling and enjoying life again.”

They continued to talk about different things and Ken realized that his little girl was growing up and she was becoming a young woman. It seemed that Elaine Evans was having a very positive influence on Katy. Maybe he had better get to know who Elaine Evans was and make sure that Katy wasn’t becoming an imposition.

Later that night he called Elaine. He had talked with her on the phone briefly when she had hired Katy but he had yet to meet her. He didn’t know what to expect, but knew he needed to make sure his daughter was developing the kind of relationship of which he approved.

“Elaine? This is Ken Strand, Katy’s dad. How are you?”

“I’m fine Mr. Strand. I hope there is nothing wrong with Katy.”

“Oh no, she is fine, and please call me Ken. I just wanted to call because I know that Katy is spending a lot of time at your place on a social basis and I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t a burden or that it wasn’t causing you a problem.”

“Ken, let me assure you that she is not a problem. I really enjoy her company and she has been a wonderful influence on Jamie. I was afraid that Jamie might not adjust to the move and would find it difficult in a new city, but Katy has gone out of her way to acclimate Jamie and introduce her to Chicago.”

“When we lived in New York, my parents would watch Jamie while I worked. She had a wonderful relationship with her grandparents, but she didn’t get the opportunity to spend a lot of time with other children. In that regard, Katy has been a godsend. Jamie can’t stop talking about Katy. You know, Katy said this or Katy did that, on and on. It has been wonderful for Jamie to have Katy’s influence, so thank you for sharing your wonderful daughter.”

“Well, I guess it my turn to say thank you. As you know, Katy’s mother died five years ago. It hasn’t been easy for her. I tried my best but I was dealing with my own demons. I had her in counseling and it did seem to help, but there still seemed to be a cloud over her. That cloud has disappeared since she has come into contact with Jamie and you. She seems to almost be a different and happier person. So thank you for helping her and me.”

“Ken, she is a sweet child and I’m not sure that I’ve done anything other the talk with her once in a while. I really enjoy her company and I know that Jamie almost looks upon her as an older sister. She is welcome in our home anytime.”

The two parents talked for a little longer. At the end of the conversation Ken did something that he had not done since he dated his deceased wife. He asked Elaine if she would go out to dinner with him on Saturday night. He said he wanted to talk with her more about Katy and her development as a young lady. Elaine hesitated. She had not dated anyone since Jamie was born. She would from time to time go out with other members of the troupe after a performance, but she had not dated. She wasn’t sure this was or wasn’t a date, but it felt like one. She finally agreed. It was arranged that Katy would watch Jamie while Ken and Elaine went to dinner.

As Saturday approached Elaine became more nervous. She wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but it was just a dinner. Finally it was time for Ken and Katy to arrive. Katy was going to stay at Jamie’s while their parents were out together.

When Jamie opened the door she and Katy hugged and chatted about what they were going to that night. Jamie said hello to Mr. Strand and told him her mother would be out in a minute. She invited Mr. Strand into the Living Room and offered him a seat. He however, remained standing and turned when he saw Elaine enter. He found his breath taken away. He had not known how beautiful Elaine was. He realized that he had seen her in passing but had not spoken with her. After a brief conversation and directions to the two girls to behave themselves, the two of them left.

Katy and Jamie were going to watch movies and order in pizza while their parents were out for dinner.

Elaine and Ken went to a small Italian restaurant a short taxi ride from the condo. They initially talked about the two girls, how close they had become and how Elaine helped Katy with things that Ken could never seem bring himself to discuss with her. Over dinner the conversation changed to personal issues, who they were, where they came from and what they aspired too for the future. As they left to catch a cab home they were both lost in their own thoughts. Each found the other to be an interesting individual and someone they would like to spend more time with in the future.

When they arrived back at Elaine’s they found both Katy and Jamie asleep on the couch. Ken gathered up Katy, thanked Elaine for a wonderful evening and told her he looked forward to seeing her in the future and left. Elaine woke up Jamie and directed her off to bed. As Elaine was preparing for bed her daughter knocked on her door and wanted to know how her date went.

“Young Lady it was not a date. We merely went out together to compare notes on our daughters and determine if we should allow the two of you to continue to socialize together.”

“Mom, I know better than that. What did you think of him, isn’t he hot? Is he a good kisser?”

“Jamie, yes I agree that he is a good-looking man. We didn’t kiss, remember this wasn’t a date.”

“Sure mom. I love you and I’ll see you in the morning”

“I love you too, Sweetheart, now off to bed its way past your bedtime. Goodnight.”

***

Over the next several weeks Elaine and Ken got together a few times. Jamie continued to practice her ballet. She didn’t tell her mom about her plans. Her mom was not involved in the production of the Nutcracker. She was working on another production for the Spring Season. Jamie wanted to try and win this part without any help from her mom.

Labor day was the last weekend before school started. Jamie and her mother spent the day with Ken and Katy. It was almost like being a family. They went to the Shedd Aquarium and then Navy Pier. It was a very enjoyable day for all of them. As they parted that night, it was a bittersweet time for Jamie. She was looking forward to her new school, but would miss being with Katy every day. She was happy to see her mother having fun and relaxing. When she had been a dancer, she was very focused on her dance and raising Jamie. It was good to see her enjoying life.

Jamie found school to be very interesting and she enjoyed making new friends. She continued to work on her dance for the audition. She was also getting nervous about the auditions which would take place in a few weeks.

Finally, the auditions were at hand. They would be holding auditions at her school, three other local schools and at the Joffrey. After all the auditions were completed, they would then cast the various children in the different roles. Katy had reminded Jamie that since she was only ten she probably wouldn’t be selected to dance the part of Clara, but could still be selected for another minor or major part. Jamie understood, but still had her heart set on role of Clara’s.

Jamie performed as well as she could and felt that she had done her best. Her teacher was encouraging but reminded her that there were hundreds if not thousands of dancers auditioning for the ballet. They were told they would know the results by the first week in October. As Jamie walked out of the school, she saw Katy waiting for her.

“What are you doing here?”

“I knew this was your big afternoon and I wanted to be here for you.”

“Thank you, that’s just like you, always thinking of others.”

“Well did you get the part?”

“I won’t know for two weeks. We’re supposed to be told by October 8th.”

“How do you think you did?”

“I think I did pretty well. I felt I danced my best, but everyone keeps reminding me the competition is very tough. I just hope I’m good enough.”

“I’m sure you did fine. I have a really good feeling about this.”

“I hope you’re right. So what are we going to do now?”

“I thought we could go back to my place and just hang out.”

“That sounds good. I’ll call mom when we get there and let her know.”

The two girls walked back to the condo and chilled in Katy’s room. They checked out some web sites and watched some TV. Elaine called and said it was time for Jamie to come home. Katy’s dad had to work late so Katy was invited for supper. Jamie reminded Katy not to say anything to her mom about the audition.

***

On October 7th the casting was complete. The directors of the Joffrey were having their weekly review meeting. As part of the meeting the entire staff would review which dancers had been selected for the Nutcracker and what the practice schedule would be leading up to the performances. Although Elaine was not involved in the auditions she would help with the practices and would work with the lead dancers. The director of the Nutcracker, Grace Thompson, handed out a multi page listing of the dancers and their parts. Grace then started going over the practice schedule when all of a sudden there was a gasp from Elaine. The group stopped their discussion and looked at Elaine who had suddenly gotten quite pale.

“Elaine, is there something wrong?” Asked Grace.

“I’m sorry, I was looking through the list and I recognized the name of one of the dancers. Can you tell me who this Jamie is who is cast to dance the part of Clara?”

“Oh, she’s such a sweet kid and a wonderful dancer. I wasn’t sure about her, but her exuberance and skill won me over. She is only ten years old, but her skill level is well above her age level. She’s a student at the University School. Do you know her?”

“I’m pretty sure I do. She’s my daughter.”

Silence filled the room. There no prohibition for a child of one of the Joffrey’s directors to dance in the Nutcracker, but no one wanted to create the appearance of impropriety. The president of the ballet, Judith Crantz, cleared her throat and then spoke. “Who was present at the auditions?” Grace, another director and two assistants raised their hands. “Do all of you agree on this selection?” They all nodded in agreement. A lengthy discussion took place discussing Jamie and the other three girls who were considered for the part, the pros and cons of each individual and what they would bring to the part were reviewed. In the end, Grace and the other director, Eileen Beecher, remained steadfast in their position that Jamie should dance the part of Clara. Elaine made it clear that she did not want to create any appearance of favoritism for her daughter. Grace and Eileen made it clear that their decision would be the same whether she was Elaine’s daughter or not. Eileen then suggested that it might be good for the company to have the daughter of a world renown ballerina dancing the part of Clara. The decision was made. Jamie would dance the part of Clara.

Elaine went home that night proud of her daughter and stunned that she had won the part as a ten year old. As she hung her coat up in the front closet, she called to her daughter. “Jamie could you come here for a moment?”

Jamie came out of the practice room looking every bit the ten year old girl she was in her leotard and leggings. “Hi mom, did you have a good day at work?”

“Well let’s just say it was interesting and a little stressful. Did you know that all the directors are involved in the final review of the casting for our ballets?”

Jamie blanched and took an involuntary step backwards. “Uh-No I didn’t know that, you never told me that.”

“I didn’t know it myself until this afternoon. We were doing our weekly review meeting and they handed out the casting list for the Nutcracker. Is there something you would like to tell me that maybe you forgot to mention?”

“M-Mom, I - I auditioned for the Nutcracker at school”

“Did you just audition or did you audition for a particular part?”

In a very small voice Jamie said, “I auditioned for the part of Clara. I’ve always wanted to dance that part. I hope you aren’t upset mom.”

“No Honey, I’m not upset, in fact I’m very proud of you. You set a goal and have achieved it. You’ve been chosen to dance the part of Clara.”

Jamie jumped into her mother’s arms and broke into tears of happiness. Soon she pulled away and said she had to go call Katy and ran off to her room. Ten minutes later Jamie came out of her room with a huge smile on her face. “Ken and Katy want us to go out for dinner with them to celebrate.” “Jamie, I’ve already started dinner.” “Well, put it back in the fridge and we’ll eat it tomorrow night.” “Oh all right, I guess you deserve to celebrate. Where are we going for dinner?” “Ken said for us to dress up and it would be a surprise. They’ll pick us up at 7:30.” “Are you nuts that only gives me an hour to get ready?” As Jamie turned to go to her room she yelled over her shoulder “Well you better get going or we’ll leave without you.” Jamie never saw the pillow from the couch that hit her in the back of the head.

An hour later they both looked stunning and Ken said so when he and Katy came to pick them up. They had a wonderful evening and everyone was very supportive of Jamie and her role. That night when they got home Jamie was still walking on air and Elaine knew it would be a long time before Jamie got to sleep that night. Jamie remembered that she hadn’t told her grandparents and went to call them. Elaine reminded her it was after midnight and told her to wait until the next day to call them. As Elaine got ready for bed, she could hear Jamie in the practice room dancing.

***

Practice moved forward and Jamie put everything into her role as Clara. She accepted the various comments and suggestions provided by her instructors at the Joffrey. Her school was very supportive and allowed her whatever time off she needed. As opening night neared Jamie was nervous but everyone assured her she was ready.

Her Grandparents had flown in for Thanksgiving and she had gotten tickets for them, Ken, Katy and her mom for opening night. The performance went flawlessly. Elaine was very proud of her daughter and Jamie glowed with her success. Grace was ecstatic and declared it the best performance she had ever seen.

Then the hard work started. The ballet was performed on Tuesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night, and Sunday matinee. Jamie would come home on Sunday evening exhausted. She learned that being a ballerina was not all the glamour that she had thought, but a lot of hard work.

The Christmas season in Chicago is a sight to behold. The miracle mile is decorated, the stores are open extended hours and the city is alive with the Christmas spirit. One of the highlights of the season is to attend the Nutcracker. Families, school groups and couples feel that the Christmas season is not complete unless they attend the Nutcracker. The fact that the Joffrey’s Nutcracker was danced by local children only added to the magic of the occasion.

Almost all of the performances were sold out before the season started. This year the Chicago Tribune in its entertainment section did a feature on the production of the Joffrey. Jamie was featured as the lead ballerina Clara. Her famous heritage only added to the story’s mystique. The reviews for the ballet were very complementary and within days the entire season was sold out. After much discussion additional Sunday night performances were added.

Jamie’s grandparents rented a long-term residence apartment for December as they wanted to attend as many of Jamie’s performances as possible. They had missed their daughter and granddaughter and wanted to spend as much time as possible with them. After six months without the frequent contact with Elaine and Jaime they decided to look for permanent housing in Chicago.

Katy was so proud of her young friend that she drove her friends to distraction. However, if the truth be told, all of them had pestered their parents to take them to see their young friend dance.

Jamie was enjoying herself, but her mother could tell that all was not well. “Jamie, what is bothering you? I know you are tired from all of the performances, but you should be ecstatic, not withdrawn. You have wished all your life to dance Clara in the Nutcracker and now you’ve achieved that dream. I’m so proud of you, but what’s wrong Honey?”

“Mom, I am happy. It is something I’ve always dreamed of doing and it is everything I ever dreamed of and more. But, the thing I want the most is to be a girl. I know everyone considers me to be a girl, but I’m not complete. I just want to be a girl.”

“I know Honey, but the doctors have said we can’t start the transition until you are twelve. You will be whole in a few years. Please have some patience.”

“I know all that. But I can’t go on sleep-overs because of my concern of being found out. We have to buy special swim suits and when I dance I have to be very careful. I know I’m a young boy, but I still have to wear a gaff and I’m afraid someone will find out. Can’t I change sooner? We could go to Mexico or Thailand where they don’t care how old I am.”

“Jamie, let’s get through the Holidays and after you are done with the Nutcracker we’ll talk about it, O.K.”

“I guess so, but just remember I don’t want to wait.”

“I’ll remember.”

***

Jamie and the other youngsters continued to impress the attendees and reviewers. It was one of the best received performances in memory. The Christmas Eve performance was the last and of course very much in demand. Again, Katy and Ken joined Elaine and her parents for the last performance. If anyone had looked closely, they would have noted that seating went, Ken, Elaine Katy, Grandma Evans and Grandpa Evans. Elaine and Ken held hands and Elaine was leaning her head on Ken’s shoulder.

Grandma and Grandma had come to think of Katy as another granddaughter and were hoping that Ken and Elaine would make things permanent. Mrs. Evans knew her daughter had been alone for too long and she hoped she could finally find true happiness and have a complete family. She knew that if that were to happen, Ken and Katy would have to be told about Jamie. Elaine and she had discussed this and neither of them knew how to address the situation. Elaine knew that if she and Ken were to have a future the conversation would have to take place sooner rather than later.

While they waited for the ballet to start Grandma asked Katy, “do you know the entire story of the Nutcracker.” Katy replied, “I know what is in the ballet and what Jamie has told me.”

“Well my child there is more to the fable than is included in the ballet. Some versions of the ballet include it, but most don’t. The fable of the Nutcracker says that the Nutcracker is really the son of Herr Drosselmeyer. He was cursed by an evil sorcerer and turned into a nutcracker. By killing the Mouse King the curse can be broken. Herr Drosselmeyer had done everything he could to kill the Mouse King but had failed. As a last resort, Herr Drosselmeyer gave the Nutcracker to Clara. She was his Goddaughter and he knew she would take good care of the Nutcracker. He also hoped that somehow the curse could be overcome. In the fable, unlike in the ballet, when the Mouse King attacks Clara it is not a dream, but rather a struggle of good and evil. When Clara throws her shoe and the Mouse King goes to attack Clara the Nutcracker/Son realizes that her life is worth more than his and is willing to give his life if it means saving Clara. When he then kills the Mouse King the spell is broken and he and Clara rejoice. Herr Drosselmeyer has his son back. Eventually Clara and the son marry and live happily ever after.”

As the house lights went down a silence enveloped the theater and the air was filled with anticipation. Jamie’s performance was again superb. The drama built as the Nutcracker and toy soldiers battled the Mouse King and the mice. Clara threw her slipper at the Mouse King and distracted him so that the Nutcracker could stab the Mouse king. The mice then retreated taking their leader with them. As the mice retreated, the transformed Prince and Clara were to hug and then dance together as the curtain came down on the first act. However, as the Prince stabbed the Mouse King Clara visibly shuddered and seemed to almost faint. The Prince caught her and held her. After she recovered, they danced as the curtain fell. All the audience, except Elaine, thought that the fainting and embrace were part of the ballet.

Before the house lights came up for the intermission, Elaine was out of her seat and out the side entrance. By the time Jamie made it to her dressing room Elaine was already there. As Jamie came into the room she was all smiles. There was a sparkle to her eyes and she was almost ready to jump out of her skin.

“Jamie, what happened out there? Are you O.K.?”

“Mommy, I’m fine. I’m a girl.”

“I know you are a girl, but are you okay, it looked like you almost fainted.”

“Mom, you don’t understand I’m a real girl. When the Mouse King was killed, I felt a tingle go down and through my body from head to toe. As the tingle passed through me I knew that I had changed. Look!!! With that Jamie removed her leotard and tights and stood before her mother naked. No longer was there any need for a gaff because her outie was now and innie. At that point Elaine fainted and Jamie was the one to help her mom back to consciousness. As she came around, Elaine hugged her precious and special daughter to her and cried for her child’s miracle. Jamie quickly changed into her costume for the second act.

For those who were fortunate to see the second act that night they had the opportunity to see one of the most magnificent dances of the Nutcracker of all time. To a person, all came away that night saying the dancing of Clara in the second act was simply magical.

Later that night, or really early Christmas morning, as Jamie and Elaine entered their condo Elaine turned to her daughter and wished her Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday. Jamie simply smiled and hugged her mom and silently thanked Herr Drosselmeyer for her special magical Nutcracker gift.

As the years passed Jamie continued to dance and became as famous a dancer as her mother. She and Katy became sisters when Elaine and Ken married. But that’s a story for another time.

Merry Christmas.

Dru

Notes:

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