Lessons of Becoming Clara

Sometimes I write because I have something to say. Today I write because I have something to remember.

Dearest Daughter,

This year you were given the chance of a lifetime. The sometimes intimidating, thickly-accented, former professional ballet dancer turned instructor and owner told you that you had been selected to perform as Clara in the 2016 The Nutcracker. You cried; for the first time ever in your life, you cried tears of happiness. You will never forget that perfect moment.


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Over the following several months you embarked on the journey of becoming Clara. You learned quite a few life-lessons along the way.

1. Be Humble. This is the one and only year that you had a shot at getting this role, and the same goes for all of the other lovely girls in your class. You left the studio that day on a high, whereas many of them left with great disappointment. You empathized with them, because you could relate to how hard it would have been had you not been chosen. You remained humble. Excited (and overly chatty in the dressing room at times), but humble. The girls in your class were incredible in their roles and in their support of you and you must be thankful for their kindnesses.


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2. Dedication and Confidence. After we made a few phone calls to grandparents and beloved cousins, you got straight to practicing. You never stopped until the big weekend arrived. You were diligent in rehearsing. You also found your footing in confidence. You stood tall and even when you weren’t quite sure of the next step or pantomime, you behaved in confidence and ability. Because you are confident and able, in ballet and in life.


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3. Dealing with Nerves. You came down with a serious case of the nerves the day before the first full cast rehearsal. You were feeling physically sick and your normally cheerful attitude converted into silence. We handled it though, didn’t we? We talked about deep breathing. We looked out the window and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of the world that was carrying on all around you. Your nerves got the better of you that day, but the next day you arrived at the studio ready to go and after that, you never let nerves grab a hold of you again. Those same nerves will appear each time you go for something new. I think you learned some purposeful ways of rising above and it will go with you.


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4. Enjoying the Journey. You were living on a constant high and I knew that it would hurt when you landed on the ground again. So I told you this spur of the moment fable that my mommy-mind created for you: There was a little boy who had the privilege to ride the train to Disneyland. He was so anxious to get to the Happiest Place on Earth that he didn’t think to enjoy the train ride there. He didn’t take time to look around him and to see the passing scenery. Yes, of course Disneyland was the destination, but his time there would be over in a flash and all that would remain was the memory. Instead, he should enjoy the whole journey, all of the stops and moments along the way. You understood my meaning and I knew that you had grasped it when one day after school you told me that you found yourself enjoying the trees on the playground and totally free from thoughts regarding Clara. To be truthful, I still have to intentionally stop to enjoy the scenery in life too.


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5. Even the Boys will Come. People came from all over the place to see you perform, when that wonderful weekend arrived. Your grandma came for a whole week. Your beloved cousins, aunts and uncles all made their arrival in town. You had numerous girlfriends from school and other places come to see the show. But here’s the kicker: even the boys came. We have so many friends that have two or three sons, no daughters, and even they came to see you. This is a rarity, and their parents had to feign their appearance as adding ‘culture’ into the young men’s lives. You were grateful, as many people missed important performances and practices of their own to see a ballet. Rumor has it that they even liked it.


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6. Staying Humble. The weekend brought you lots of love and support and flowers and gifts and attention and interviews and hugs and sweets and special treatments. I was concerned, unfoundedly so, that this would create an ego within you. But you stayed humble and cheerful and supportive of everyone in the show, from those with the smallest parts to those with the biggest. I am proud of your ability to stay sweet in the face of such splendor. Please promise me that you will remain this way. Humility is a key to a happy life.


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7. Finishing Strong. There came a time in the tiny bathroom at the last performance when I told you that it would be your last time putting on Clara’s beautiful dress. You acknowledged this fact and carried on as if it was only the beginning. Perhaps it is only the beginning for you. Your love of ballet expanded somehow from wide to wider and your aspirations of pointe shoes and platter tutus only grew bigger. In your journey of becoming Clara, you became more you too. You grew up some. You handled pressure like a pro. You crossed paths at silly and sweet and mature and graceful.


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8. In the Midst of this Dream Coming True, Another Dream Sparked. The night after the last performance, after thousands of people witnessed the wonder of the incredible talents withheld at Central Oregon School of Ballet, you released. You cried, as you do each time a ballet performance comes to an end. You  were sad, but it wasn’t all about Clara. It was about performing. You knew that it would be a while before your next time on stage. It was about the other dancers, and knowing that the wonderful friends who aren’t in your class, would suddenly be absent from your life for a while. I understand this letdown, and I held you through the tears. But you know what? This says to me that you were made for the stage in ballet. You will go as far as your determined little self will take you. You must shoot for the stars. Who knows? Maybe one day you will get to appear in that magical Sugar Plum Fairy’s purple tutu that you love so much.


Chandler Photography

I’m proud of you.




  1. Brings tears to my eyes and joy in my heart to read this lovely memoir of Grace’s journey and the lessons she will hold dear in her heart. Good job Mom! Nourishing the dream and helping her stay grounded!

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