Celebrating a big birthday in (not at) The Nutcracker

This makes no sense to me at all, but any way I slice it, I’ve now lived in eight different decades, even though I just turned 60 last month. I’m having enough trouble with the whole turning 60 thing without compounding it with the whole living in eight decades thing!

But it’s true. My twin bro and I were born on December 23, 1959 – towards the end of the final month of the final year of the 1950s. Had we been born when we were due, I’d instead be complaining in this column about living in seven decades. You see, like most identical twins, we were born a few weeks premature (okay, six weeks premature, but who’s counting? Hmmm. Well, I suppose our mother was counting). This pushed us back into the fabulous 50s. So, if you do the math, which I’ve now done 73 times, stubbornly yielding the same result, we’ve lived in the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the “noughties,” the whatever you call the 2010s, and now, as you read this, in the 2020s. Yep, count it up. Eight different decades. This realization is not helping me deal with turning 60.

I know I’ve written about this whole issue before. Can you tell it’s weighing on me? But by the time you read this, it will have happened. Despite my incredulity at the passage of time, I’m not expecting it to be too traumatic, largely because there’s something else to stress about around the same time as my birthday (I mean in addition to the traditional seasonal stress that comes with the holidays). On December 27th, just four days after I cross the 60 years-old Rubicon, I will debut with the National Ballet of Canada in The Nutcracker. You heard me right.

I know what you’re thinking, I’ve never written about my long and storied career as a dancer. That’s true. Well, a guy has to keep some secrets, so that part of my life has always been off limits, until now. Don’t worry, it won’t take long to tell you about it. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing me dance – once you have, you can never “unsee” it – you’ll know that boogying (let alone ballet!) is not my strong suit. No, I assure you it’s a very, very, weak suit. Yet, somehow, through an email received in November, the National Ballet of Canada invited me to appear as a Cannon Doll in this year’s production of The Nutcracker.

I figured there’d been some kind of mixup. I was aware that in each performance, two special guests are invited to appear on stage, in colourful costume, as Cannon Dolls for about 57 seconds. One doll brazenly advocates the firing of the cannon, while the other cowers in fear, pleading for peace. I learned about all this when I saw a YouTube clip of Leaf stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner “performing” in last year’s production. Clearly the National Ballet had run out of Toronto celebrities to invite and randomly threw a dart at the Toronto phonebook to skewer me. But when am I ever going to get the chance to grace to vast stage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts? So, I took a deep breath, said “yes,” and roped my thespian son, Ben, into joining me as the comic relief Cannon Dolls.

As I write these words, we’re still a week or so away from the big performance, so I’m spending my time in training, waving my arms wildly and feigning bravado while a fearful and trembling Ben leaps into my arms. I’ve only dropped him twice so far.

Stay tuned for a full report on the experience in a future installment. Anything to turn my mind away from that big looming birthday.

A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of seven national bestsellers, including his most recent, Albatross, all published by McClelland & Stewart.

About Terry Fallis 86 Articles
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of nine national bestsellers, all published by McClelland & Stewart. His most recent, A New Season, is now in bookstores. www.terryfallis.com.