I requested the no-drama prom this year, and the gods granted my wish with my third child even though my second child did not mean to give me a prom filled withe drama. I don’t even think my first child meant to give me a drama-prom, although he did.
When the first child’s prom comes to mind, I still recall the slap of hard shoes that began from far away on our street. A kind of – clap, clap, clap echoing in the distance growing ever closer.
Was it him?
It was five in the morning and I waiting outside with my husband, Kiffen, for our son to come home. I thought if we waited outside at dawn in the peachy light of early morning it would make a point and maybe he would show up faster.
Our boy did show up but what stupid point was I trying to make? That I was a martyr? A martyr who could stay up all night with the best of them waiting for an errant child to come home?
The year was 2006. Spring. Jacarandas in bloom and jasmine and honeysuckle too. It was a tremendous relief to hear the sound of those dress shoes hitting pavement, getting closer and closer until he rounded the corner in a sprint and found us waiting.
Did his shoulders sag the tiniest bit? Did we win? Ha.
When the boy appeared, breathless, in a white tux and white shoes, as I remember – he was not drunk or wasted or anything – only irritated to find us up waiting for him. He looked beautiful in the gray dawn, and I wish now I’d hugged him and welcomed him home. He’d gone to the prom and to the after-party with a lovely girl.
Those were the days when he still came home but upon arrival in the wee hours was met with such consternation and judgment and fury no wonder he didn’t bother after a while. He’d had a prom curfew that night because of falling grades, as I recall, so he was allowed to go to prom but not the after-party.
Who even remembers? I am sure I intended to teach him a lesson about sticking to promises blah blah blah.
It’s boring to be right, and it means nothing.
I used to ask why. I don’t do that anymore. Asking why is like arguing with empty space, air, clouds, sky, and stars.
The second prom the dog died. The poor dog died on prom night. Sweet Bentley. We didn’t want our daughter, Lucy, in her beautiful red prom dress and matching red six-inch heels to know Bentley was dying, so we didn’t tell her. Lucy was so excited about prom and going with her big group of friends and I wanted her to have a great night.
Bentley had been sick a while but he chose prom night to go down hill fast.
This is how I remember it. Kiffen and Norah slipped off to prom to take pictures of Lucy. I stayed home with Bentley who was agitated on the couch. He could not get comfortable.
Bentley Atticus Sparkles was part hound-dog and part basset hound. He looked like a basset on steroids. He ate chickens and applesauce cakes right off the counter in one or two gulps. His slobber could hit a wall from twenty feet away when he shook and flapped his spongy jowls. He was probably six or seven when we adopted him though they told us he was two.
When we picked him out at “Beagles and Buddies” east of East LA, Flannery and Lucy both cracked up laughing in front of his cage because he was so weird and sweet and funny looking.
When I watched our kids laughing together at this funny dog, I knew we had to get him. Norah, three, did NOT want him. She would hold her tiny arm up in the air and say, “He SLIMED me. He SLIMED me.”
He slimed us all but we loved him.
His name was already Bentley, so I added Atticus and Norah added Sparkles. We only ever called him Bentley.
We brought him home, and he howled with a BAAARRRROOOOOO, especially whenever Flannery played the piano.
Flannery and the piano converged into a single body, shaking and rocking the house, and it made Bentley howl.
The French lady next door would yell and slam her window shut, and who could blame her?
Although I do remember the time Kiffen, typically kind and gentle, had had enough of her sniping and snapping at us, so he shouted up at the angry window, “Je regret beaucoup, Maricette! We’re just living over here! We’re just living!”
She yelled back down at him, “Oh you are soooooooo stupid stupid, you stupid man.”
I was mortified.
But in 2009, when Bentley was dying on prom night on our couch, I didn’t want Lucy to know. So Kiffen and Norah took beautiful pictures (which are definitely somewhere) and when they returned home that night, Bentley was much worse. I was petting him and trying to give him water, and Norah, who was ten, petted, stroked, and hugged him. I texted Flannery to come home, and he did. He burst in the door reeking of cigarettes and wind in his black leather jacket. He came over to Bentley and held him.
Norah asked Flannery to play the piano as maybe it would make Bentley feel better.
So Flannery started playing rifts of every kind. Did he sing? I can’t remember. Norah says he sang. He played all sorts of melodies, fast and slow from Elvis to “Red River Valley” and plenty of improvisation in between. The more Flannery played, the more Bentley settled and grew sleepy and peaceful until he slipped away. I couldn’t believe it.
And the third prom was Norah – easy and sweet. ACT class prep in the morning, prom decorating in the afternoon at the Birmingham Art Museum with the theme of gods and goddesses. My friend, Patti, gave her a gorgeous black dress to wear that belonged to her daughter, Meagan. Pictures and driving kids to the prom dinner party – and then texts and a late-night return from the Waffle House. Not bad, and my friend, Judith, from out of town, who had never been to prom back in the day, enjoyed experiencing Norah’s prom preparations and even helped her with hair and dress and made the kids laugh as we drove them to the pre-prom dinner. We took pictures under a gazebo near lilacs, azaleas, and dogwoods.
It was easy and I was grateful.
My Prom from Days of Yore
I went to first my prom in a sky blue dress. I didn’t care for my date so I ordered a rack of ribs because I love ribs. It didn’t make him fall in love with me a minute or me with him. We weren’t compatible, but I was definitely compatible with a plate of ribs.
I don’t remember my parents waiting up.
I went to my second prom in a boring off-ivory dress with spaghetti straps. I wish I’d gone in a tux. I went with my boyfriend, but our relationship was dying and he would soon break up with me to enter the Catholic seminary to become a priest. I can’t remember what I ordered or if we went to dinner – or maybe we had dinner with other seniors at someone’s house. I think that’s what we did. He was already a college freshman, so I’m sure Knoxville Catholic’s prom was not high on his list. I remember trying to be perfect – the death of any relationship. He didn’t become a priest but he married the perfect person for him who had their garage decorated in Big Orange Volunteer colors for him as he’s a Tennessee super football fan. I cannot imagine ever being that generous.
I grew up watching three football games a weekend as a coach’s daughter. My father’s games, which were “our bread and butter,” and both my brothers played too.
I don’t watch football anymore – except maybe the last seconds of the 4th quarter if it’s exciting or I’ll watch part of an occasional game with my dad, who still can leap out of a chair at a sports bar to scream at referee’s call or a dumb play.
Both my proms were at John XXIII Catholic Church in Knoxville.
The theme of my prom was not “Stairway to Heaven” but it was the theme of a Y-Teen formal I attended – blue construction paper backdrop with wads of cotton balls glued like a spiral to the heavens.
I went to the Y-Teen formal with Pat Gerard who was called “Fat Pat.” He was the center on the football team. He was funny and made me laugh, although NOT when he did 360 donuts on patches of ice off Middlebrook Pike on our way home to West Knoxville. I was prim then and very glad to get out of his old blue station wagon. It was a double date with my best friend, Pattie, who went with Paul Jellicourse. Pattie spent the night, and we slept in until 3:00 pm the next day, and then we went to John XXIII for guitar Mass at 5:00.
We were sophomores in high school.
* * *
Lucy’s prom was held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Flannery’s prom was at the Universal Sheraton up in the Hollywood Hills. They took pictures by the fountain on Griffith Park across from the tennis courts where Lucy played.
Norah’s was at the Birmingham Art Museum.
Where was Kiffen’s prom? It was in Tullahoma, Tennessee at high school, and he went with Julie Kilpatrick, his girlfriend.
Time collapses and we go to prom and we eat ribs or a dog dies or we go to an after-party or the waffle house or we wear red shoes or a white tux or a crown of flowers or all of the above. We stand by a fountain or under a gazebo or wear a borrowed dress or get a friend to do our eye makeup or our hair. We dance all night or we wait up until they come home.
Little Bascom with Big Bentley Atticus Sparkles
* * *
Lucy and Flannery in hmmm 2005
* * *
Flannery and Norah seeking four-leaf-clovers in 2007
* * *
Norah and Bentley in Griffith Park in 2009.
Norah wrote this poem for him in fifth or sixth grade.
My dog lay there
On the edge of death
Flannery played the piano for him
And he became calm, his breathing became shallow
The cancer had caused him too much pain
His time had come
On a sofa
In the house that I call home.
* * *
Prom 2016 🙂