Three Prom Nights

I survived my third prom as a mother.

Until you’re a parent you’ll never know the joy of NEVER having to live through another prom night.


Pop the champagne!

My own proms were fairly uneventful.

Both were at John 23rd Catholic Church in Knoxville on the University of Tennessee campus. John 23rd was known for its guitar masses and Knoxville Catholic High School proms.

My first prom was a with a boy named Tim who didn’t say much. I didn’t know what to say to him either. We had zero chemistry. He took me to Tony Roma’s Ribs on Kingston Pike before the prom. I ordered ribs in my sky blue dress with the spaghetti straps. It seemed the thing to do.

I say this now. Tim deserved a better prom date than the one he got.

My second prom was with Joe, who was my boyfriend at the time, but who had recently announced his decision to enter the priesthood, but agreed to go prom with me as he wasn’t entering the seminary until the fall. I wore an ugly ivory dress, also with spaghetti straps, and to this day I regret I didn’t go with my decision to wear a tuxedo and dance with everybody but Joe.

The dogwoods were in bloom and my boyfriend was going to be a priest.

That was not a great prom night either.

Sometimes, I tell my students to write letters to their teenage selves. If I could write one to mine, I’d say – wear the tuxedo and wish Joe well, but I was a girl with a broken heart. I’d also tell my teenage self that the kindest, smartest, and funniest man would be coming along in a few years.

Then came the proms of our children.

The First Prom

The first one Flannery stayed out all night with nary a call, and then he came running home at five in the morning in his white suit – we could hear his racing footsteps from up the street far way, the distant sound of his hard dress shoes slapping concrete at dawn. He rounded the corner to find us waiting outside for him, the sky a soft lavender. He was so handsome in the early morning light, but I was mad at him. He was supposed to come home right after prom because of grades, but instead he disappeared into the ether with his lovely date. His shoulders sank when he saw our parental ambush – his good intentions of getting home before light zapped by freaked-out parents.

How could I have known that was nothing?

If I could turn back time, I would tell him how handsome he was in his white suit and white shoes and peach shirt. I would hug him and tell him I hoped he’d had a wonderful time dancing all night and to get some sleep.

But I’m pretty sure I read him the riot act and stomped righteously off to sleep like a good martyr.

Martyrs are boring.

The Second Prom

The second prom our old hound dog, Bentley Atticus Sparkles, decided it was time to die and he wasn’t waiting around. But it was Lucy’s prom night and we wanted her to enjoy every minute without knowing about our sweet dog, whom she adored.

We all loved Bentley Atticus Sparkles, who was so slobbery his mouth was a sponge, and when he shook, ropes of saliva hit a wall at twenty feet away. He’d been sick several months and it was clear he wasn’t getting better. The vet suspected cancer and had advised us to keep him comfortable.

On Lucy’s prom night, he took a turn for the worse.

Kiffen and Norah slipped off to take pictures of Lucy at the Biltmore Hotel in LA while I stayed with Bentley. He grew more and more agitated and couldn’t get comfortable.

Norah still swears she saw a ghost earlier that evening coming for him where he was resting in the backyard garden from her vantage point near the treehouse.

I had the poor dog on the couch in the living room when Kiffen and Norah came back, and then Flannery came home and held him. It was a Saturday night, and I thought we could take him to the vet, but then Flannery played the piano and sang, while Norah and Kiffen kept petting him. We all did. His ears were eight and a half inches long. The kids had measured them once. The music calmed Bentley immediately. And pretty soon, the music and love eased our old dog off into the next world.

Lucy, in her beautiful red dress and red shoes with the highest heels, didn’t find out until the next day as she spent the night with her best friends, which was all planned.

We had backyard funeral for Bentley Atticus Sparkles attended by all three kids, and Uncle Bascom, a wiener dog, who was Bentley’s close friend.

Did the cats come too? Maybe they watched from the treehouse.

The Third Prom

Actually Norah went to prom last year when my dear friend, Judith, was in town, and we drove the kids to the pre-prom party and waited up until Norah came home from the Waffle House in the middle of the night after prom at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

(The third kid has born the brunt of my prom PTSD and knows to call or come home when she says she’s going to come home.)

And last night, she played Mercutio with a wild fury and then changed into her prom dress and grabbed her backpack and went off to prom at the Alabama Theatre to dance from 9-10, since she couldn’t leave until intermission. Prom at the Alabama Theatre lasted from 7-10. She stayed at a hotel in Homewood with three girlfriends after the prom (with a litany of warnings and rules) and checked in regularly, but it was a HUGE relief to pick her up this morning.

So I am celebrating by bingeing on FEUD about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford about the making of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” with Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange.


And so relieved not to have live through another prom night.

I have a horribly overactive imagination that leaves no potential disaster unexamined.

I can’t find a picture of Flannery in his white suit, so these will have to do.

I am grateful that Lucy talked to me last night and assured me that Norah would be fine. I had accidentally texted Lucy’s friend “Maddie” instead of Norah’s friend “Maddy” to tell them to be safe and careful blah blah blah.

Lucy texted me – Prom update: You texted the wrong Maddie. 🙂 Lucy and her Maddie found it amusing.

Norah’s Romeo & Juliet friends all helped her get into her makeup and dress after her great demise on stage as Mercutio. (Dimari, with Norah below, played Tybalt, so they had a great fight scene before heading off to prom.)




boo and bentleyBentley




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