When my oldest son was very young I bought a Captain Kangaroo Christmas video for him. Little did I know what I was starting. In the movie, Captain Kangaroo reads some children’s Christmas stories complete with illustrations and one of those stories was “The Nutcracker.” For some reason I can’t identify, Ty became immediately and undeniably enthralled with nutcrackers. When asked what he wanted Santa to bring him, his list consisted of a nutcracker. That was it.
Unlike nowadays when Christmas nutcrackers adorn department store shelves in abundance, nutcrackers were not a common commodity back then. As a last resort we went to a specialty (that means high-priced) kitchen store and bought him a nutcracker for $25. A fortune back then, especially for a little boy who I ‘m thinking must have been about four. I worried that he thought the nutcracker would come to life like in the story, but I needn’t have. The nutcracker was a huge hit as a Christmas gift and my little sweetie learned how to crack a peanut shell in his mouth. Thus began the ritual.
After that, the nutcrackers became a tradition. Every year I looked for new and different varieties to add to the nutcracker brigade. Of course nutcrackers became very popular about that time and we had them all. Candleholders, Wizard of Oz, Kansas State, you name it. Whatever Ty was interested in at the time had a nutcracker to go with it and Mom couldn’t resist the sparkle in his eyes when he opened the new one. Ones. Yes, they began to come in multiples. Sets. Collections. We had miniatures and giants, tree ornaments and door guards. Finally we had to set up an oblong table in our living room to accommodate the nutcracker collection.
In subsequent years nutcrackers not only filled every square inch of the table, but overflowed to other surfaces such as coffee table, cedar chest, end tables and any card table we could find. Even the space underneath the tables became inundated with nutcrackers. And here I must confess. It began to grow a little tiresome. It took me hours every Christmas season to unpack them all and I won’t even go into the eons it required to wrap them each in tissue paper and box them away when Christmas was over. But for my darling child, I did it faithfully.
Right up until he graduated from high school. And then he dropped the big bomb. “Mom, I don’t really want any more nutcrackers.” Oh. Well how long had he been feeling this way and not said anything? Awhile I guess, though I never got him to admit it. And what of the army of nutcrackers I had bought on an after-Christmas sale last year, now put away as a special gift for Christmas morning?
As it turns out, those nutcrackers never came back out of the box. To this day I have stacks of cardboard boxes in the garage and in storage sheds filled with the infamous nutcracker gallery. No one has opened them in years. What to do with them?
Someone thought I should sell them as a set. Surely all of them together would fetch a hefty price. If you could find someone that wanted a rather hefty collection. Someone else thought I should insure them. Really? How does one go about insuring a nutcracker collection? I know. I can give them to Ty since they are his and he has his own place now. Nope. He’s not touching them. And his wife has tactfully expressed her lack of desire to inherit them as well. They are now mine forever.
Truth is, I kind of like knowing I have them – as long as I don’t have to find them and get them all out every year. Anyway how could I rid myself of such memorabilia? The image of my little Ty holding his first nutcracker is seared into my memory. It made his Christmas all those years ago and to this mama’s heart, worth every bit of money, pain and agony that went into the nutcracker-collecting era.
And perhaps one day I’ll have a grandchild. Maybe that grandchild will like Captain Kangaroo and I can dig out the old video. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll say something like, ”Grandma, I wish I had a nutcracker.” Problem solved and I will be the coolest Grandma ever. (As long as you don’t ask the parents of that very fortunate grandchild.)