the nutcracker – a day in pictures


Ed note: I apologize profusely for the state of these pictures. Some were taken on my fancy schmancy camera, some were taken on my not so fancy phone. Some are in focus, some well, not so much. Some I had a chance to crop, a couple I even managed to Instagramize (shut up, it’s a word). Most are pretty raw and are kind of a mess. It is what it is, friends. You get the idea.  

But here it is, the story of the Nutcracker …


First there was this …



And then there were these …



Then there were these …



And these …



And Oh My God even these.

To which the very fancy waiters added very fancy bubbling water to make .. are you ready for this? … COTTON CANDY SODA! I know, right?

Which Brooke would never dream of actually drinking, but it’s not like she’d eat those pretty cookies up there either, so let’s just get back to oohing and aahing, shall we?



But before any of that, there was this.

And as much as I’d like to leave it out, I can’t, because without it, this story’s not real.

Because this is what we do.

In the middle of the pink and the fluffy and the shiny and the pretty, we do this.

We find places to hide when it’s all too much.

When Brooke panics.

It’s what we do.

This happened to be the floor in front of the bathrooms.

It is what it is.

It’s part of the story.

Our story.

The truth.



But eventually we made it in.

Which was good, because if we hadn’t, we would have missed talking to the rat …



And touching the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu …



And Oh my God, THIS.

You know how my girl feels about characters, right?

You know she LIVES for meeting anyone dressed as anything, right?

And you know that she’s not remotely satisfied with a hug and a smile for the camera, right?

Oh no, my kid makes em work for it.

Like, Oh, hey, a dancing bear! So let’s see whatcha got, bear.

Yup, she got the bear to dance.

And do Ring Around the Rosy.

And Pat-A-Cake.

Cause that’s my girl.



And then of course, the bow.

Can’t finish dancing without bowing.

Would be rude.

(And yes, the crowd went wild)



There was glitter tattoo getting …



And rosy cheek painting.

The face painting choices were Ballerina, Princess, Butterfly, Fairy and Mouse.

Brooke chose None of the Above.

“I would get rosy cheeks,” she said.

“With shiny.”



Oh, there was even picture frame making.

Which apparently got a little confusing and wound up becoming not just a frame, but art.

So I guess now it’s framed art.




And then there was THIS.

Do you remember that I told you that Brooke made a friend in her dance class?

The one who we had the aquarium play date with?

The one who she asks about.

That one.


Uh huh.

The one that she hung out with at the reception and sat with for the show.

Because, ya know, that’s how they roll.

Hanging out.

Sitting together.

Doing what FRIENDS do.




And then there was a picture with the utterly fabulous, absolutely one-of-a-kind Mr Gino, Brooke’s adaptive dance teacher.

Or, as Brooke calls him, Mr Gino whose first name is Gino but who isn’t the Papa who makes the pizza.

We love him.

Pizza or no.



And then, after all of that, there was the show.

The first act was, in a word, magic.

My girl was engaged.




She sat on the edge of her seat.

She bounced up and down through entire scenes.

She vibrated with joy.

She was HAPPY.

Then there was the second act.

And just like I showed you the sitting on the floor by the bathroom picture, I’m going to tell you about the second act.

It was hard.

It was physical.

Brooke was struggling.

She yelped.

She screamed.

The girls in front of her turned and stared at her.

Four times.

She hit and slapped and picked at my skin.

She pulled at my necklace.


The one that I’d brought as a fidget for her, but never imagined she could yank so hard as to hurt me with.

She cried.

She asked to go home.

She yelled again.

We stuck it out, trying to make sure that she didn’t miss out on things she’d want to see.

She loves finales. I didn’t want her to miss the finale.

The bear, the mouse king, the sheep.

I wanted her to get to see them again.

Looking back, we should have quit while we were ahead.

But when it was over, when the curtain came down, the magic eclipsed the hurt.

The wonder chased away the struggle.

And all that was left was gratitude.

And lingering joy.

As we walked out into the crisp air outside the theater Brooke asked Luau to tell her something. “Dad, she said, could ya tell me that Jesus is proud of me?”

He looked at me. I looked at him.

“Sure, Brooke,” he said, “I’m sure that Jesus is proud of you.”

I assumed she meant Godspell Jesus. But with Brooke, assumptions aren’t always so safe.

When we got into the car, Luau asked her if she’d like to go again someday.

“Yeah,” she said, “when I’m in it.”



Somehow, I don’t doubt for a moment that that is possible.

Because if there’s one thing this life has taught me …

… it’s that everything is possible.


A thousand thanks to the folks at Boston Ballet and State Street who made all of this possible for my girl. I am so grateful for their generosity and their dedication to giving back to the community. 

41 thoughts on “the nutcracker – a day in pictures

  1. Even with the struggles, it was magical and I don’t doubt for a moment either that I could be the Grammy of a ballerina named Brooke.

    Love you,

  2. I was good, meaning no tears, until Brooke asked Luau to tell her that Jesus is proud of her. And then well, ya know…..
    You know I say this all the time, giving credit where credit is due, and clearly it applies here, “Anything is possible”~Kevin Garnett!

  3. What a wonderful day! We Autism Mamas know that we always have to tempt the storms to enjoy the rainbows in our kids lives. I’m so glad she got to see the Nutcracker.

  4. So glad you stuck it out. The fight or flight instinct can become such a vexing challenge. Sticking it out and seeing the just rewards are just so much more special because of all the obstacles that must be overcome. Congratulations!

  5. Oh Jess, I’m exhausted just READING this… way to go Momma!! Your darling daughter will be forever ‘better’ for this experience. “Hurray!” to the ballet for offering such an amazing opportunity (seriously – I’m talking to our local group to see if we can finagle something like this with our local dance company!), “Hurray!” to your family for accepting the challange, and “Hurray!” to Brooke!!

  6. I read all of your posts, and most of them make me cry… but I had to comment because this one was magical. We all know she can do it too! It’s all magical. Thank you for sharing. There are those of us out here who don’t comment all the time, but still share these moments that mean so much because we see our own lives and glories and hardships reflected, we just don’t have the strength to write them down. Thank you! Go Brooke!

  7. Thank you for sharing. I am sure she will always remember (because we know our kids remember everything) and treasure this day even though it was so hard.

  8. So magical…good for all of you for sticking it out til the end! Always a tough decision…but she will always remember that she got to see the nutcracker and meet everyone! Beautiful pics …as always!

  9. Good for you, Brooke! I love that she made the bear dance with her and how she touched the ballerina’s tutu. I hope there are many more magical moments for her (all of you) in the future!

  10. I can’t even properly express what these photos do to me. All I could think of was taking my sweet daughter to her first ballet class at 3.5…and her walking in circles in the corner. The dashed dreams. This is beyond *inclusion* – it’s rightful. It’s what all children deserve. It’s healing. It’s joyous. It’s hard. It’s an experience – and what all good art should do. I love Brooke’s response at the end. I love Mr. Gino. I love that bear. I love those damned cookies. Oh – and you know what I love most about those cookies? They didn’t assume that the kids wouldn’t enjoy or love them – they rolled out the red carpet. By ‘special performance’ – that’s exactly what it was.

    I’m sure that, as much as your family got ferklempt about all of this (and as I am, typing!) the staff, the Mr. Ginos, the dancers – all got so, so much more.

  11. The picture of her with the rosy cheeks is beautiful, as is the last one. So glad she got to experience this and loved her answer about going again when she’s in it. Best answer ever!

  12. Verklempt. And a puddle right now. Oh, baby girl, not only is Jesus proud of you, I’m pretty sure he’s proud of all the amazing people who made such beauty and joy possible. And I can’t wait to come watch you perform in it, too. You will. Of that I have no doubt.

  13. And there it is AGAIN! Evidence of the most extraordinarily brave person I know. We have seen Brooke do this time after time over the years but it never stops inspiring me – – it is the way Brooke manages herself through a nearly overwhelming experience and then instead of running from it and leaving it behind for good – – she imagines herself in it and then does it. How the heck does she do that?! – – stare down fear and turn a challenge into a blessing? Her beloved dogs are perfect examples but the pages of this blog show so many more. And now this – – barely getting through a second act but imagining herself in it down the line. Oh, I have no doubt . . . and in the spirit of the season I declare “I believe” – – she continues to teach me that.

  14. yes, with our joy there always seems to be that struggle, but it IS worth it. I like you have to remember when to call it a day sometimes. I’ve had to learn it is okay to leave an event early on a positive note. as always, thank you for sharing your story.

  15. Oh, Beautiful Baby Girl… The REAL JESUS is so proud of you and all you did that day. It was magical….

    JOY and Blessings….

  16. Ah, the yin and yang of it all, we experience that with at least one kid every time we go somewhere. You handled it with your usual grace, and of course Brooked did brilliantly in her own way as only she can do. After nine years I still find it difficult to know when to “give up the ghost” and when to stick it through to the finale, whenever that might be. I’m glad she got there, and thrilled you had such a wonderful and thoughtfully planned-out experience. Happy holidays to you!

  17. The entire post was amazing…and that last part, where she asks if Jesus is proud of her?! Oh my goodness…that is just…wow.

    I look forward to seeing the montage of pictures when Brooke gets her day on stage.

  18. Such honest; successes and struggles. A true picture of our lives. No one does it better, Jess, no one. Thank you for sharing your gift. gail

  19. We have lived that exact scenario. Many, many times. Amazed! What a wonderful story. Our son is turning 14 Wednesday and it took him a long time to sit through a movie, but once he did, it was so wonderful. Love, Love, Love!!!

  20. There is a song in Hindi – “wo subah kabhi to aayegi” means This will pass and there will be a beautiful morning.. I always believed in that.. My 12 yr old could sit and watch the show..even last week I wouldnt have believed if someone had said that to me.. So hang on there Jess.. Our kids surprised us when we least expect..
    I cannot wait to share my son’s write up on my blog..
    Love Jaya @

  21. love this story! thanks for the pictures as i’m sure it’s more work and we all LOVE to see them. so glad you and Luau got to have the experience together. appreciate the honesty b/c it comforts us, we need to see the real here. also, i know you realize your girls are gorgeous, but geez jess. the shiny cheeks pic? such a pure and intense spirit wrapped in such beauty.

  22. Jess, posts like this make me so grateful to be part of this community. Hope, connection, shared joy and challenge. It’s all here.

  23. Very cool. You’re right: everything is possible. 🙂

    Also, is it wrong that I badly wish I had a rat costume like that to roam around my neighborhood in? Because I think it’s wrong, but I’d really like that.

  24. I’m a volunteer with the Ballet, and every year during Nutcracker I get to put on the Bear costume and greet everyone coming to the show. I wish I had been the Bear the day your little girl came, but it looks like whoever of my fellow volunteers donned the costume did a great job. I always say that Adaptive Dance is one of the best things the Ballet does, and your beautiful words brought that home to me once again. God Bless You.

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