Long, long ago, in a beautiful faraway land called North Carolina, my children used to transport me to a land of magic and fantasy every Christmas season. They took me away to a place only children can grant access to, a place full of anticipation, excitement, danger, mystery, intense beauty and great love. They took me back to 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia! And, no matter what was going on in the ‘real’ world, I was always swept away with Clara as she followed her dashing prince into the fantastic world of the Sugarplum Fairy!

How did my children manage this great feat? Alexander and Abby both studied classical ballet under the incredible Ann Dunn at the Fletcher School of Dance in Asheville, North Carolina.   Each Fall, Ann held auditions for the Nutcracker, and her students had the opportunity to learn about the audition process and to dance in a professional production at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville. So,  for the years 2003 – 2004, Alexander was Fritz, the irritating and bratty little brother. Abby performed in the 2004 production, but sadly, we have no pictures left of her time in the ballet. (They burned.) I do, however, have some of Alexander.

His favorite memory of this time, by-the-way, is of actress Andie MacDowell asking him for his autograph! Her daughter’s gymnastics class always played the part of “The Chinese”, and so Andie was always around for opening night, helping out downstairs with her daughter. We met her several times. She is very shy, and much prettier in person than she is on the screen!

The older I get, the more I find myself wishing for a time machine to take me back to those sweet times when my children were young, and things really did seem so much more simple.  I guess I’m getting old and wistful. But tonight, for the first time since we have moved back to Texas, our entire family is going to the Nutcracker Ballet, and once more I know I will be transported back to those sweet and magical times. . . in Asheville and in Russia!

When we moved last year, I found some old pictures of Alex’s first year as Fritz. Some of them are not very good, but I’ve compiled a slideshow of the best ones to share with my readers.

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