Suite of nutcrackers makes collector proud

MIDDLEBURY — This holiday season, the view through the window of one Middlebury home isn’t just holiday lights. Instead, in the biggest windowsill in the Hathaway house off Halladay Road, 88 nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes are already on display.
Cullen Hathaway, a seventh-grader at Middlebury Union Middle School, owns the large collection. Every December, the 12-year-old pulls the nutcrackers out of their storage boxes in the attic and sets them out on the windowsill.
Hathaway got his first nutcracker, a knight, when he was eight. After that, he began asking for more nutcrackers for his birthday (which is Dec. 20) and for Christmas.
“They’re interesting to me,” he said. “They’re unique, I guess, since none of them are really alike.”
The smallest of Hathaway’s 88 nutcrackers is three inches high. The tallest is four feet — so tall that his grandmother had to wrap it in a trash bag instead of giftwrap when she gave it to him. Among the nutcrackers he has a soccer player, a snowman, a joker, a New York Yankee and a nutcracker on a rocking horse.
The variety helps Hathaway remember the story behind each nutcracker — who gave it to him and when. He gets the nutcrackers from his parents, Holly and Eric; friends; aunts and uncles; and especially his grandmother Jean Wisnowski and great-aunt Joan Clark.
This year, even though he didn’t ask specifically for nutcrackers, Hathaway expects that he’ll have several more to add to the collection by the end of the holidays.
To Cullen’s mother, Holly, the collecting habit is unusual for someone his age.
“It’s pretty impressive that he’s stuck with collecting an item since he was eight,” she said. “He started his own tradition.”
But he is that type of person, she said — he is also an avid fisher and he keeps a book with pictures of the fishing trips he has taken since he was five.
But the nutcracker tradition may be due for a slight change if he gets more nutcrackers this holiday season.
“There’s not much more room on the windowsill,” Holly pointed out. “But I can always find a place for them.”

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