Friday night I got off from my train and the parking lot was full, I mean past capacity, with cars blocking in those of us who were hurrying to get out. The commuter lot where I park my car is right on the Hudson River. The waterfront was full of parents with cameras (and tissues) taking pictures of the high school seniors going to prom. I wanted to be a little annoyed about my car being blocked in, after all my non-senior children were waiting for me to get them from day care and take them to a party that night, but I could not be. I looked at the high schoolers, man they seem so young - did we look that young ?, in their gorgeous dresses, perfect hair and makeup, heels that must already be hurting, boys with tuxedos and slicked back hair and smiled. I smiled for the moment and also for the past and future. I waited patiently, honked lightly, to which a very nice father (assume) holding a camera came and moved the car blocking me in. He wiped his eyes getting into the car and emerged with a smile once he had moved the car, camera in ready mode.
I remember my own prom, it was the second time this week that I thought of it actually, very well. I thought of it earlier in the week passing by the Plaza Hotel the place that is forever tied in my mind to it since that is where we had ours. The Prom...THE PROM...stuff of myth, anticipation, heartbreak, sex (yes and stop looking shocked), pushing that limit more than ever for one night. The night when curfews were lifted, pictures were taken, neighbors looked on as limos left. Senior year in high school is all about the struggle between kids thinking they have arrived into their adulthood and parents trying so hard to keep them in their childhood. Nothing else defines the end of that struggle, with the kids winning, as the Prom. The night that required months of discussion, preparation, and of course the 2 most important things from a girl's perspective; the dress and the date. My dress was bought my Dad (nothing poofy was my only request so wound up with a dress I like to this day that was not as mired in the 80s as it could have been) and he also bought my shoes (at a height that I chose and my mother thought he used no judgement about). The month before the prom my boyfriend and I broke up and well that left me with NO PROM DATE. This was 1985 the option to go to the prom alone (especially for a girl) was well not an option. I was sad, looked at the dress, ready to cancel the limo when my friend Maryanne broke up with her boyfriend and our friend Tom was still looking for a date. The 3 of us went together, sat together, laughed with the Led Zeppelin playing "don't ask don't tell" limo driver who helped get us into nightclubs after the prom and got us home with the break of dawn. My feet throbbed, stockings had been thrown out to be able to walk barefoot, my hair was a mess and I am pretty sure the acrylic nails I had on had broken. The Plaza Hotel was beautiful and probably not ready for our chorus of "Where's the Beef?" when they served us filet mignon(you know a HS crowd is not impressed by high end small sized meat). The combination of 2 girls and 1 guy was not something conventional, we were the only ones, but we were in some way more honest then the couples where one thought escort and the other thought "getting lucky". Obviously our threesome was a platonic one which actually let us relax, laugh at ourselves and enjoy the night for what it was ...a last celebration among people who we had really grown up with during the past 4 years, complete with overpriced drinks, music and big hair and who we were getting ready to part from.
I have looked back on that night periodically and it is always a memory that is filled with a smile. The girls the other night looked slightly more polished (think the fashions have a lot to do with that) and the boys seem timeless in their attire (rentals still so much cheaper than what the girls have to pay for this event). I hope those kids had a night from which they are recovering with memories they choose to relive when they get to be older. I smiled at the sight of these kids, at the memories of my own prom, and with a tissue in hand thinking of my own sons' future proms.