When I was 5, my mom took me to see “The Nutcracker” at the Fox Theatre. Much to our surprise, this would become a family tradition. Ever since that fateful day in 2009, we have gone to see the show together, save 2013 when travel and illness kept us from going. However, the spread of COVID-19 in the US and the sudden surge in cases has caused a slight rift in these plans. With live shows being cancelled left and right it seemed impossible for us to attend this year, which greatly upset my mother, who wanted to keep the tradition alive. That’s when we learned that there was already a plan being set up for people who wanted to see “The Nutcracker this year.
Instead of going to the Fox Theater, the Atlanta Ballet decided to host a drive-in movie experience at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, where the recorded footage of the ballet could be seen by everyone from the safety of their own cars. Naturally, my mother was excited and bought us front row tickets for December 4th on the day they were released. The date arrived sooner than expected, and we rushed to our parking space, my mom chattering excitedly about how happy she was to be able to spend this time together again.
As we were enjoying our hot chocolates and cookies we bought from the stands, an announcement came on: the screening had canceled because of high winds. Our “Plan B” had fallen through in the most 2020 way imaginable.
Every aspect of daily life has been affected by COVID, including family traditions such as the 4th of July and Thanksgiving dinner. Families have been unable to spend as much time together, leaving many feeling lonely and disconnected. And as we enter into a holiday season that is typically full of social connection, this loss can feel acute. But, as I reminded my mother, the point of the family tradition was never about the experience of The Nutcracker itself; it was about spending time together as a family.
It may not have been a perfect experience, but I enjoyed spending time with my mom outside of the house. Before we left the parking lot, I told her that we would have just as much fun sitting on the couch and watching Jumanji–a family favorite– as we would seeing The Nutcracker. I really hope that every family is able to spend time together, even if they aren’t able to maintain their strict family traditions. For me, the hot chocolate more than made up for the unexpected turn of events.