Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NeverEnding Nutcrackers

Offbeat Museums

Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy have been playing over and over in my head ever since my visit to the Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, Washington.  As a child I danced in this ballet every Christmas season for years and years.  I knew the score by heart.   I was a snowflake, a flower, an Arabian dancer and a Russian one.  The wooden toy soldier turned handsome prince marched into my dreams at night.  And still does.

So when I read that Arlene Wagner, once a director of a small ballet company, became infatuated with nutcrackers and then spent her life in pursuit of them, I knew I had to see her museum.  She and her husband amassed a collection of over 6,000 nutcrackers.  They picked them up at antique shows and shops and read everything they could on this folk art form. As their knowledge grew, their search widened.  It didn't take long for word to get out.  Suddenly, antique dealers were calling them.

The scholarship necessary in feeding such a singular obsession is on par with that of a university professor.  I felt instant envy and awe at what they had accomplished.

There are antique nutcrackers from the 1500's.  Nutcrackers from hundreds of countries, including the iconic ones from Germany.  There are the functional plier-like ones that can be found in every kitchen.  There are cast iron ones.  Brass and ivory.  But it was the carved wooden figures that I had come to see.  The Drosselmeyers, Claras and Mice Kings.  Santa Clauses.  Benjamin Franklins.   Ogres.  Animals.  Cartoon characters.  There are so many that after an hour, one blurs into the next.  My poor travel buddy finally excused himself.  

But I was entranced.

I read somewhere that Arlene thinks they all come alive at night.  I'm certain they do.  The minute you step foot into this museum, you have entered a world of magic.  Or that brightly lit stage where you once twirled on toe shoes like an exquisite falling snowflake.

  Where the future is eternal.


  1. Oh! You were a little ballerina. How sweet. My daughter grew up dancing all the various parts each year, too. Those songs just GET in your head forever. I will definitely check out this haunted Nutcracker museum when I'm up that way.

  2. I can't get over the "do not handle Karl" sign! I want to substitute "fondle" ;-)
    So much single minded pursuit of a dream. An example to us all...and what joy!
    I can see cute little you dancing her heart out on stage.
    I had a childhood stage memory post recently too.
    Xo Jazzy Jack