Did I ever have a school dance? I remember vaguely a prom but that’s about it. I mean, there must have been school dances, right? How come I don’t remember going to any? Was I really that distracted? That removed? That busy with other things? That high, drunk, rebellious… lost?
But this column isn’t about me. This is about my daughter. My beautiful, wise, kind, happy, present daughter. She is graduating middle school and this weekend was their big eighth grade dance. A dance they had been talking about since seventh grade. The night when they all get to dress up in something other than their school uniforms and see all their peers at night — without parents — on their school grounds with a DJ, food, decorations and what would be, after a few hours, a wonderful memory.
My daughter and I went shopping for her dress at Urban Outfitters (after all, this is a dance not a prom — not too dressy, not too casual, simply perfect cool/pretty/hip — just like my kid). She found it right away and with a little help from me tying the “just a little too loose straps” with a ribbon — it fit perfectly.
Did I ever shop for a dress with my mom? I remember wedding dress shopping. Why is everything before that… simply a blur. Was I that dark, detached, drowning in depression?
But, once again, this is about my daughter. As my daughter’s friends came to our house to get ready, I had the joy of listening to them while they straightened each others hair, braided each others hair, I even got to curl one of the girl’s hair. Laughter and excitement. And as each girl privately dressed and came out of the room to reveal their outfit I was moved by how the girls all gushed over each other “Savannah, you look beautiful… Olivia, that is so pretty… Hannah, that dress is so awesome…”
When do girls stop doing that and start competing with each other? Withholding compliments? Feeling too threatened to let another girl know she is beautiful? When do girls turn mean?
Once they were all ready and pictures were taken I drove them to the dance. Listening to them giggle,
“I hope this isn’t going to be like in the movies where we’re all in corners, all awkward as the DJ plays and no one dances.”
I laughed, then added,
“I hope no one spikes the punch.”
My daughter looked at me,
“Mom, this isn’t the 80’s. No ones sneaking in flasks. This isn’t Grease.”
My memories are filled with drugs and alcohol and sex and escape. Escape from school, from home, from insecurities, from self loathing, from confusion, from anger, from feeling like elementary school was the last time I knew I was a kid.
I gave kisses and hugs and watched as my beautiful child headed across the grassy lawn and went inside. I could see balloons and sparkling lights from the car and the faint sound of music playing. I had no doubt these kids were going to have a wonderful time.
When I came back three hours later to pick them up I parked out front where all the other waiting moms and dads waited in their cars. Like being at an airport and waiting for the arriving plane to unload the passengers, anxious to see the one you know exit the tunnel and bombard them with questions as to how the trip was.
I could hear the music and laughter and excitement now from inside pouring out to the street. Much louder, stronger than when I dropped them off three hours earlier. Miley Cyrus, Nicky Minaj, Drake, One Direction… and slowly some students began to trickle out to meet their rides.
I watched as these sweet kids, dressed up in outfits you knew they spent time picking out, walked across the grassy lawn. Girls struggling to walk in their high heels, boys in suits either too big or too small. Girls with purses, trying to keep them on their shoulder. Boys with ties and hair once slicked starting to drip off them. Smiles, laughter, joy. I was in no rush. I loved sitting in my car watching them. Seeing some carry out balloons as a memory. Some holding a cupcake. Others taking last-minute pictures of each other.
I remember parties at people’s houses. Music playing in backyards as beer and pot were being passed around… and other things. I remember sneaking into clubs with fake ID’s and dancing with older boys. I remember… I remember this song —
I was suddenly present and from inside my daughter’s school dance the DJ was playing “Come On Eileen”… Yes! I remember this song! My friends and I danced to this song all the time. We laughed and gossiped and did each others hair. We borrowed each others clothes and did each others make-up. We took pictures with cameras and waited weeks to see how they came out. We hugged and laughed… and we danced. We danced to Come on Eileen and so many more. So many songs, albums, mix tapes.
And we still do. We dance today. With each other… and with our children.
As the song finished and the DJ announced from inside, “Goodnight, Class of 2016”, I saw my beautiful daughter and her friend come out. Laughing, glowing, arm in arm as they got in the car. I didn’t even need to ask how it was, it was clear.
“So… did you girls dance?”
“Oh yeah. All night. Everyone did. It was so much fun. I can’t believe it’s already over.”
And as we drove back home I remembered everything. All of it. But this column isn’t my story. It’s hers.