When I was working on my Creative Writing badge for American Heritage Girls, I had to write a letter from a famous woman’s point of view. The woman could either be real or fictional, but she had to be from way back when. After lots of frustration, I finally choose Clara Stahlbaum from the Nutcracker.
The letter is addressed to Clara’s cousin Mercy, who I made up.
The whole letter is currently seven pages long, which is an awful lot to read in one sitting, so in this post I only included four pages of it :)
Once, when I was a young girl, I had an enchanting dream about being whisked off to the Land of Sweets, a delightful world full of fairies and other lovely creatures. The young Clara I used to be was convinced that her darling Nutcracker Prince and all the events of the night were real, but as I grew up, I came to the conclusion that my adventure was nothing but a dream. Until the dream revisited me last night.
You’ll remember this tale, I’m sure – the beginning, at least, because you were there! I hope this explains why I acted so dreamy for years after Christmas Eve of 1816.
I perched on the velvet window seat, gazing out at the streets of Germany and watching the delicate snowflakes float to the ground. It was Christmas Eve, 1816, and the annual Stahlbaum Christmas party would be starting soon. I tried to peer into the curtained windows of passing carriages, hoping to spot my relatives. Glancing at the oak grandfather clock in the corner of the parlor, I learned that it was only 6:30. The party wouldn’t start until 7:00. I returned my gaze to the window and willed my family to arrive.
The aroma of cooking turkey drifted out from the kitchen. A platter, painted with holly leaves and laden with exquisitely decorated sugar cookies, was positioned on a side table. Pure white candy canes were nestled together in a crystal vase. The Christmas tree, a glorious evergreen, had hand painted glass ornaments, strings of popcorn and cranberries, and flickering candles gracing its boughs. A radiant gold star sat on the peak of the tree. An enticing pile of colorfully wrapped presents lay around the evergreen. Everything was ready – if only my relatives would hurry up!
My little brother, Fritz, raced down the carpeted stairs from the second floor and snatched a cookie from the plate. Ordinarily, I would have scolded him, but it was Christmas, after all. Fritz licked the pale blue icing off the cookie, which was decorated like a Star of David. He shoved the treat into his mouth and made obnoxiously loud mmm noises.
Rising from my spot at the window seat and smoothing out the azure silk skirt of my dress, I strode across the room toward Fritz and affectionately adjusted the young boy’s tawny bow tie. I ruffled his light brown curls fondly.
“Clara,” he whined, patting his hair down, “why are you . . . you’re always . . .” Not sure what to say, my brother rubbed a smudge of icing off the corner of his mouth and wiped his sticky fingers on my bare arm.
“Fritz!” I yelped. He shot me a sly look and dashed back up the stairs. I hurried into my parents’ room and splashed cold water from the basin on the dresser over my arm, then dried it with a cotton towel. Being Christmastime, I decided to forgive my sibling for smearing frosting on me.
In looks, Fritz and I were very much the same. We both had pale skin, rosy cheeks, teal eyes, and curly caramel hair. But personality-wise, we were polar opposites: I was lady-like, responsible, and considerate. Fritz, on the other hand, was unruly, forgetful, and always spoke his mind, no matter how rude his thoughts were.
On my way back to the window seat, I checked the grandfather clock again: 6:37. Barely any time had passed since the last time I’d peeped at the clock! Watching carriages rumble by in a flurry of snowflakes for another twenty-three minutes would drive me crazy, so I headed toward the kitchen, plucking a candy cane from its container on the way.
Mother was taking a perfectly cooked turkey off of the spit in the fireplace when I strolled in. Delicate porcelain dishes painted with tiny pink flowers were stacked on a tray made of dark cherry wood, which was resting on the island.
I lifted my lace-trimmed apron off its hook, slipped it over my head, and tied it around my waist. The candy cane I dropped into my apron’s pocket. “May I help you, Mother?” I asked.
She set the turkey on the counter, a folded towel beneath it, and tucked a loose strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “Thank you, Clara, but I’m almost finished,” she told me. “I just have to make tea and the cranberry salad, and then I’ll be done.”
“But, Mother, you must get yourself ready!” I protested, waving at her sweaty everyday dress and messy bun. “Go put something nice on, and I’ll take care of the rest of the food.” I loved working in the kitchen, and besides, I needed something to do until the party started.
Relief shone from Mother’s weary smile as she untied her apron and kissed my forehead. “Bless your heart,” she murmured, and exited the steamy kitchen.
I turned to the wooden counter, ready to work. I took a pan from the cabinet, threw some sugar and scarlet cranberries into it, and set it on the stove. As I waited for the cranberries to heat, I found a pot and filled it with cold water from a bucket Mother kept in the icebox. Placing it on the stove next to the cranberries, I dropped mint leaves into the pot.
I was just setting Mother’s best ruby-colored teapot on the dining table when someone knocked on the door. Mint tea nearly splattered all over the lace tablecloth as I practically dropped it on the table in my haste to answer the door. Yanking off my apron, I flew across the dining room, into the parlor, and threw open the door. There stood Aunt Katherine, Uncle Raymond, and their daughter, Mercy.
“Goodness, is that you, Miss Clara?” Aunt Katherine said with fake surprise. “Why, I can hardly recognize you, you’ve grown so much!”
My aunt and uncle had seen me at Thanksgiving, and I hadn’t changed in the least bit, but I nodded politely anyway. “Come in!” I stepped to the side so they could enter the house. Hopping up and down in excitement, I squeezed my cousin Mercy in a hug. “It’s been ages since I’ve seen you!” I exclaimed, grinning at her.
Mercy hugged me back and brushed snowflakes out of her long raven braid. She untied her sugar cookie-colored cloak, and as it fell off her shoulders, I got a good look at her dress: it was dark violet, with black lace making patterns across the bodice and full length skirt.
“Do you like it?” Mercy asked softly, twirling timidly. The skirt fanned out, and a few stray snowflakes sailed around her.
“Oh, you look lovely, Mercy!” I cried gleefully. The purple fabric looked astounding against her pale skin and chocolate eyes.
Mother glided down the stairs elegantly, smiling at Katherine, her sister. She was beautiful in her crimson holiday dress, a string of pearls around her neck. Her blonde hair tumbled over her shoulders.
Katherine embraced Mother the second she set foot in the parlor. “Marie! It’s wonderful to see you. The tree is amazing! How hard you must have worked . . .”
As the ladies chatted, Father came down the stairs holding Fritz’s hand. Fritz’s bow tie was crooked again, and I wished to straighten it.
“Samuel!” Uncle Raymond bellowed, trotting up the stairs to shake Father’s hand. They shook, clasped each other’s shoulders, and burst into merry conversation. Fritz managed to wiggle out of Father’s grasp and scampered down the stairs.
Soon, everyone had arrived, and after a lively feast of delectable foods, it was finally time to open our gifts. The children were forced to wait for the adults to look at their presents first out of respect for our elders. Once the women neatly unfolded the colorful paper wrapping their gifts and gasped in pleasure at the handkerchiefs and dishes they received, and the men grunted in satisfaction at the axes and boots they had been given, the young ones were allowed to rush to the tree and find their presents.
I’d only just picked up a parcel with Clara written on it when the front door was flung open, and in a swirl of frigid air and snow, a person stepped inside the Stahlbaum house. The person was outside the circle of light thrown by the candles in the Christmas tree, so I could not tell who he was; the others were as confused as I was. Who was this character, to come into a home on Christmas Eve uninvited?
The person walked toward the tree, and as the face became illuminated with candlelight, I could see who it was: Godfather! He had a burlap sack slung over his spindly shoulders, and a mischievous grin danced across his wrinkled face. His tangled white hair and bushy eyebrows were littered with snow.
Other than Mercy, Godfather was my favorite relative. I dropped the package I had begun to open and bounded over to him. “Godfather, Godfather!” I cried, grabbing his hand. “You’ve missed dinner!” I pulled him into the circle of guests surrounding the Christmas tree. Everyone except Fritz shrank away from Godfather, looking frightened. Perhaps he did appear to be rather shabby, with his wild hair and paint-stained clothes, but that was simply because he made toys for a living, and he sold his knickknacks for meager portions of money.
“Darling Clara,” Godfather said, “I have something for you.” He dropped his sack to the floor, rummaged around in it without letting anyone see its contents, and drew out a nutcracker.
I accepted the nutcracker from him and stared at the toy in awe. It was a stout doll with a potbelly, and he was dressed in a red hat, a luxurious coat with fabric of the same color, cerulean pants, and shiny black boots. A fake sword with a bejeweled handle hung at the nutcracker’s side, and underneath the lush blonde horsehair on his head was a wooden lever, and when it was pulled on, the toy’s mouth would open wide.
Squealing joyfully, I hugged the nutcracker to my chest. “I shall call him the Prince – the Nutcracker Prince!” I whispered.
I hope you liked it . . . if you made it through the whole thing. I’ll post the second part of the letter soon.