Archive for December, 2014


fallen angel

December 17, 2014


The curtain went up. And Eleanor went down.

An angel brought to her knees by a too-long hem. Or maybe a slippery floor. Or it could have been due to shaky nerves. The cause doesn’t matter. The effect was the same. The littlest angel had fallen.

I sat in a row filled with moms. We all gasped and leaned in.

Dress rehearsals are designed for this. To get out the kinks. The pre-show stress. The missteps. But this dress rehearsal included the video cameras for the official Nutcracker DVD. This will be the fall that lives in infamy.

The fall that was followed by a stumble.

We all gasped again.

But Eleanor hung on. Literally. I watched as she gathered the front of her floor-length dress and lifted it ever so slightly, holding firmly with both hands to candle and costume. And she smiled, albeit wide-eyed, throughout the rest of the dance. She hit every mark. Didn’t miss a cue. At the end, our row of mothers leaned back. Heaved a collective sigh.

The moment it was over I did not rush to her side. Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I didn’t know what to say.

Earlier that morning my friend Emily and I were talking about exactly these kinds of moments. Moments where we, as parents, can clearly see the disaster at hand, but have a harder time perceiving the gift it brings.

Each. Step. Down. The. Auditorium. Stairs. I. Wondered.

Then I saw her, surrounded by a host of other angels. All worried. All reassuring. All trying to make the bad thing better. I saw her trembling lower lip and her eyes brimming with barely held tears.

And I knew. I knew what the gift was.

“That was the best I have ever seen you dance!”

“Mom” {amazing how much pain and sarcasm can be expressed in a three letter word} “Weren’t you even watching? I fell.

“Yes. Yes you did. And it was spectacular.” I recited a play-by-play of the three minutes and 28 seconds of the score from mortifying tumble {full-on face plant, really} to triumphant end. And I told her how that dancing, that ability to make a mistake and keep your cool and figure out a solution and keep smiling all the way through, that, as Anitra, the mom sitting next to me, said, “that is professional grade.” And it was. And I told her I was more proud of that dancing than if her performance had been flawless. And I meant every word.

And the tears evaporated. And the lip firmed into a genuine smile. And the rest of the day she held her head high and floated wherever she went, as if the halo and wings were still in place.

Her fall was a gift that day. To both of us. She learned about her own grit and resiliency. And I was reminded of the wisdom of my host of friends. The women {and men} like Emily and Anitra. Parents whose children are not the same age as mine—from Emily’s young daughters who are part of an audience to Anitra’s daughter who, as a graduating senior, is dancing her last Nutcracker for our studio, these parents help me through. Lift me up from my falls. Help me see past my stumbles. Remind me of my grit and resiliency.

There will be many gifts exchanged in the days and weeks ahead. The best with be those that are unexpected. Which will you unwrap? And who will help you? I’d love to hear about each one. Keep me posted.


home for the holidays

December 11, 2014

claranutDearest Clara,

It is dark. The house is silent. As I sit beside the Christmas tree writing to you, the moon’s butter glow is partially masked by the wisps of passing clouds. Our annual party has ended, and your uncle has given you a handsome nutcracker and with it a magical dream.

Tonight I am giving you another. This nutcracker is not handsome. She is beautiful. She is strong and she is graceful. She is witty and bright. She is you.

A reminder of what’s within you.

This nutcracker is holding another, a miniature version of your uncle’s gift. When you are holding your dreams, your hands are full of possibility, not gripped by fear. When your eyes are focused on the radiance of the wishes in front of you, the dark pull of worry falls behind you.

A reminder to cradle your hopes.

This nutcracker is wearing red pointe shoes. Shoes that will help you hold your center, ground you in good moments, lift you over obstacles when there are hurdles along the way. Shoes that will always guide you. Just click your heels.

A reminder that there is no place like home.

Home. For all of your childhood it has been here, with us. Yet you are no longer a little girl, you are becoming a young woman. A woman who will soon leave our home. So this nutcracker is smaller. She’s ready for travel, and adventures unknown. Whether you are out exploring the world alone, or are surrounded by a world full of others, she will be there for you. With you.

Home. It is not a single place. For a time it may be a small apartment, or a shared space. It may be the contents of a suitcase. It may be nomadic. Here with us for the holidays, then back there to the circles of friends you have gathered into a tribe, into a family.

Home. It is not determined by location or configuration. Home—a real, true home is a place where you love and are loved. It is that simple. And that profound. Love is a home’s only necessity.

And here beside the tree there will always be a place for you. Return whenever you need us, carry us in your heart wherever you go. And we will hold space for you and your dreams. Always.

With all my love,

Mama Stahlbaum

{This is the 6th year I have performed in The Nutcracker, my 5th as Clara’s mother, and the 4th time I’ve written a letter to the two young women dancing as Clara.  Here’s a link to the one from last year, the year before and the original.}


Becember Jars

December 5, 2014


Somehow, it is already the sixth of the month.

And when I look at the days ahead, it seems our calendar is bursting with events. As if we have a marathon course of occasions that need to be run at a sprinter’s speed. Do you feel it, too?

For years I wondered, how can we pace ourselves? And I realized it wasn’t by throwing everything out, getting rid of all the holiday cheer {although it was mighty tempting}. The best way for me was to down-shift our focus from our endless to-do list and spend a breath of time being with our children.

Just a moment. Each morning. When they unscrew the lid of their Becember Jars. Jars filled with an I-love-you-note for each day. Focused not on what they do, but who they are. I love your devotion to reading…I love your clear sense of style…I love how joyfully you to give to others…I love how clearly you speak your mind…I love being with you.

Some mornings they read them aloud. On others a sly grin spreads across their face, and they silently tuck the note away. Either way, they know we see them. In a jar full of ways, we are saying I feel your heart and hear your soul. These are, in essence, advent calendar of love. And no matter our faith or family traditions, love for a child, deeply given, speaks to the spirit and magic of the season. So why not? Right now. Grab a jar, a pen, a scrap of paper. Build your own Becember. Fête the is-ness of each child. What aspect of who they are will you revel in each day? I’d love to know. Snap pictures. Share stories. Keep me posted.

And Happy Becember.

%d bloggers like this: