It's prom season. If you're in high school, that means it is time to scrape together all that cash you've been saving from the extra shifts you've been working at the Kwik-E-Mart to pay for your tux. Or your dress. Or your Parisian Night Suit. And you're looking for that perfect spot for dinner. And someplace to land after the big dance. And the limousine to take you from place to place. And the flowers. And the pictures. And the (insert adding machine sound effect here).
We were fortunate. My son took a very low-key approach to his senior prom. He drove his own car. He put together an ensemble that included the family favorite Chuck Taylor hi-tops, skinny red tie, and a been-there-done-that smirk. His mother gathered flowers from our back yard for a boutonniere, and a corsage for his date, and he was off into that good night.
And it was a magical night. The dreams he harbored for what might have been were replaced by what was. His memories of that night will be the ones he gets to write about when he looks back on that watershed moment that sounds like an exclamation: Prom. What expectations weren't fulfilled become the stuff of regret to be worked out over the course of adulthood. What secrets there were belong to him and his date. Hindsight only serves to make the event loom larger in the rear view mirror.
Not that the lead-up didn't have its own monumental swirl of emotion. The weeks of anticipation and the moment of truth when the question finally has to be asked. All the surveying of her friends and his. Will she, won't she? In my son's case, the answer was somewhere in between. The potential for romance was tempered by that "friends" thing. Nothing wrong with that, since some of my best friends are the people with whom I attended high school dances.
But how could any one night live up to all that hype? That's probably why this is also the season of stories about the heartbreak of this or that student who was turned away from his or her prom because of a dress code or a rule meant to keep kids safe that ended up making things worse. This night of all nights turned into a petition or letter-writing campaign, or a chance to prove a point.
For some of us, just showing up was enough. At least that's how I like to remember it.