I used to get terribly frustrated when my mother wasn’t dressing as nicely as I thought she should.
She’d sometimes wear cut off nylons or my father’s socks, assuming no one noticed her feet. But as a mother myself, I understand. I hope people will give me a pass for wearing my son’s Adidas slides to the prom gathering on the Green Friday night.
I planned to wear a decent outfit for the annual promenade of gowns and tuxedos before this year’s senior prom. But life, as they say, got in the way and I ended up wearing the slides, which my son uses as shower shoes in college.
This might be OK except they’re about 4 inches too big for my feet. As my mom would say, I looked a little like God Help Us. Or at the very least one of those women who have thrown in the towel.
I was hoping no one noticed, but I think a few people did. I definitely caught a kid in Big Y checking out my feet and stifling a laugh as I stood in line and picked up my daughter’s escort’s boutonniere. But I didn’t care, not nearly as much as I did during my son’s senior prom festivities three years ago.
I don’t know a lot of kids in this year’s graduating class because I don’t have any kids in 12th grade. And by the time you’ve attended your fifth pre-prom gathering, all you really want is a few photos and to send them on their way. Oh, there are women who show up in their LBD and pearls, but it’s few and far between. The bulk of the moms come as they are, just happy to have made it out the door.
I wrote a piece a few months ago saying I was rested and ready for another prom, but I failed to factor in the law of diminishing returns. This is about the only thing I retained from economics. It means that the thrill of doing something diminishes every time you do it.
My professor used the example of eating ice cream. The first one tastes great, the second less so and so on. The same is true for prom preparations. The role of hand maiden gets old the second time, particularly when the princess forgot to get the pedicure and is calling you to paint her toenails 15 minutes before she’s due on the Green.
I’m not sure why prom day is always a nightmare, but it is. Hair appointments requiring leaving school early, and miscommunication between the main office that requires three phone calls, two voicemails, five texts, and finally a hand-written note from home. Make-up misfires. Limp tendrils. Hooks and snaps that won’t stay. A last-minute scramble for an evening bag or anything to hold a few necessities.
By the time we pulled out of the driveway with a large cup of coffee between my knees, I just wanted to snap a few photos, take a look at the dresses – the best part of prom in my opinion – and send my daughter and her date on their merry way.
Of course, it’s never that easy. There is the problem of assembling everyone for group shots. There are the rolled eyes of your daughter as you move in for another close-up. There’s trying to keep your emotions in check as your daughter and her closest friend pose for a photo, making you wonder where the last 15 years have gone.
Both girls looked beautiful, my daughter in her blazing red gown and classic up-do, and her friend C in her silk platinum gown with her long flowing blonde hair in tiny braids framing her face. I swallowed hard. They’re two young women now, no longer the pair of girls who did scouting together and struggled to spend a night away from home at sleepovers.
Her family lives across the street. They were the only ones who took the bait 15 years ago when the guy who sold us his house invited us over to meet the neighbors. It was so nice of them to come. Can you imagine if no one showed up?
We learned that they had two daughters, the younger girl the same age as our daughter. A son would follow a few years after we moved in. The girls have known and played with each other since they were 18 months old, which is pretty cool considering how transient some neighborhoods are today.
I loved the fact that my daughter has a neighborhood friend because I was great friends with two girls on my street while I was growing up. Neighborhood friends share a certain bond that other friends don’t. You almost feel related because you know each other’s families so well.
You’re on the front lines when Joe the Boxer eats the molding around a door. You sense everyone’s concern when your friend’s brother goes in for another surgery. You know the ins and outs of other families, when to give parents a wide berth and when it’s OK to let loose. No one else’s house is quite yours, but neighborhood friends’ houses are pretty close.
The previous owner warned us that our neighborhood is not a coffee klatch type of neighborhood and he was right. I can go weeks, sometimes months, without seeing my neighbors, but that doesn’t mean we’re disconnected, distant or don’t like each other. It just means we’re very busy.
We’re there for each other, watching each other’s dogs when someone’s traveling. We borrow sugar, flour, butter and the occasional cup of dog food when supplies run low. We keep tabs on each other’s houses and kids when the teens want to stay home for the weekend, making sure no more than two cars are in the driveway. We text each other to plan neighborhood gatherings when someone notes we’re overdue.
We get a little choked up when we see two beautiful young women standing on the Guilford, CT., green on their way to prom, wondering where the time has gone. I wasn’t a basket case at this year’s pre-prom gathering because my daughter is only a sophomore. I’ve got two more years of teen-age girl stuff – the good, the bad and the angst.
But other parents were watching their only or last child headed off to their last prom – another last in a list of assemblies, concerts, teacher conferences, banquets, awards nights and sporting events that is senior year. It goes by so fast that you almost can’t believe it.
As parents, we know that this is what we’ve been working for all these years, yet it’s still so incredibly hard marking all of these lasts. My daughter’s date’s mom said that it helped her knowing that I was terribly sad when my son left for college. She said by telling her, I had normalized her feelings.
“I look around and no one else seems to be feeling this sense of loss,” she said. “It really helped knowing you felt it too.”
I felt it in spades and was somewhat floored because I didn’t expect it. I was terribly sad when my son left for school because I felt a huge void. I had invested so much time in him that I missed him more than I ever imagined I would.
It took me a long time to get used to having him away, but I’m used to it and actually embrace it. In fact, I’m still adjusting to having him home for the summer because he doesn’t realize we all get along just fine without him for most of the year.
He doesn’t understand why I use StitchFix, or why I want to watch Dateline when he wants to watch repeats of The Office with me. He doesn’t understand why I want to veg out in my bedroom while his father watches the NBA finals downstairs. He really doesn’t get how much I hate professional hockey, but I do and that’s never going to change.
So prom is over for another year, and this year’s seniors will take their place on the Green in another few weeks to receive their diplomas. I’m happy for them and their families, and excited for the adventures that await them. It’s a wonderful milestone, a commencement of the next stage in life and things to come.
It’s not over, it’s only just the beginning for everyone – kids and the parents too. Just don’t forget the Kleenex.