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Emily Grossman

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Published: December 5, 2013 at 8:07 AM [UTC]

Everyone who celebrates Christmas has their own way of getting in the spirit. Some people go overboard on the Black Friday sales, rising at the wee hours of the morning, or not even going to bed at all, lining up at the doors, and making a mad dash for the perfect gift. Other people deck their houses with enough lights to signal life forms from other planets to land on their rooftops. And then there's the Christmas sweaters--ha, don't get me started. Me? I spent the week of Thanksgiving decked in black, hiding below a stage, crammed like a sardine into a space that offers less than a bow stroke's motion before poking a stand partner or neighboring cellist. No, it's not just anyone's cup of tea, but I personally wouldn't have it any other way.

Anchorage puts on two shows a day of the Nutcracker, held on the three days following Thanksgiving. It's a land rush way of starting the season, but no one seems to mind the holiday jump start. The PAC seats 2000 people, and day after day, we packed the place out. I don't actually get to see what unfolds on the stage, but it's not like I really care; my favorite part about taking part in this production is being able to look out into a festive audience, full of people of all ages who have anticipated this performance for who knows how long, and know that I am giving this moment to them. Judging by their reception, they seemed to be having the time of their lives.

These are the best kinds of gifts we can give. I'm thankful to be able to offer my skills as part of a magical moment that can be treasured for a lifetime. The look of the kids faces (and adults, too!) as they peer into the pit in wonder before each show is more rewarding than a dozen presents under the tree. As the applause erupts after the performance, I take special pride when the largest accolade goes to the pit orchestra, though they perform largely unseen. I wonder if perhaps this is what it's like to be an elf at his workbench, as I happily plug away at my phrases for each number.

When it comes to gifting, some people get a kick out of buying the perfect tie or toaster. While I've done my share of traditional gift-giving, I always feel a bit more pleasure in giving something I made myself, so as I sit at the coffee shop between shows, I will never be seen without my knitting needles, working my way through an endless list of home-made gift ideas. Around me, people trickle in and out, decked in holiday style, enjoying drinks with whipped cream and sprinkles, no holds barred on this special day. I might ask them about their plans, or I might just sit there quietly as they excitedly chatter about their day. Either way, I'm a part of this scene, and it makes me glow, though no one may suspect it's true from the looks of this oddball in black, the quiet one in the corner with the big black case and knitting needles in hand.

I'm not sure that there's any greater joy than that which we feel when others are happy because of something we did for them. And that, I suppose, is the spirit of Christmas. Baby Jesus would approve. The three wise men knew what's up. Your mother smiles with a nod. Whatever it is--and only you know--give it. You won't regret it.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 6, 2013 at 2:00 PM
A beautiful blog! Emily, you are truly a gift to all of us v.commers. Happy Holidays.
Posted on December 7, 2013 at 6:28 AM
Happy holidays to you, too, Tom! I'm thankful for your friendship. :)

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