Grandson Max and his sweet girlfriend Anna are going to the Portsmouth High School Junior Prom this weekend. He’ll wear a rented black tuxedo accented with a bowtie and pocket square, in teal — the color of Anna’s full-length dress. I’m sure her corsage will feature a teal ribbon too. But when I asked Max what flowers he was giving her, he said with a smile, “It’s a secret.”
Their prom ends at 11. Then, Max and Anna, accompanied by eight of his buddies and their dates, head back to his house for a post-prom party. His mom and dad will collect all the car keys, put out a taco spread at midnight, followed by an ice cream sundae bar at 2.
Wouldn’t I kill to be a fly on the wall and sneak a peek at my six-foot-tall handsome grandson. Just yesterday, he was building castles with turrets out of red, yellow and blue legos.
But I have my own prom memories.
May, 1959. I’d sit in my bedroom every night, listening to records on my 45 RPM Player. My favorites were “Mr. Blue” (“I'm Mr. Blue, when you say you love me…”) and “Sea of Love” (“Come with me, my love, to the sea, the sea of love….”).
Several weeks before my junior prom at Central High School in Pennington, New Jersey, I didn’t have a date. Nor did my best pal Kathey (whose nickname was Minch). Neither of us cared. We told each other, “What’s the big deal about going to prom? It doesn’t matter. Just a silly dance.”
Apparently, my mother felt differently. And did something about it.
A few nights later my brother’s roommate at nearby Princeton University called. “Valerie,” Buford said in his Mississippi drawl, “Ah understand there’s a big dance coming up and Ah’d be honored to escort you.” That same night, Kathey answered her blue Princess phone. “Minch,” brother Robert said, “How’d you like to go to your junior prom with me?”
Suddenly, we cared! “What are we going to wear?” “All the good dresses are gone!” “Shoes — is there still time to get them dyed?” “My hair!”
I can’t recall if my dress was floor-length or ballerina, if it had sleeves or a scoop neck. I don’t even remember the color. But I haven’t forgotten how Kathey and I felt arriving at the prom escorted by two Princeton freshmen, and walking into the high school gym where a decorating committee had spent hours hanging twisted blue crepe paper streamers on the ceiling.
And wow, could that Buford dance! We twirled around the floor to the Everly Brothers’ “Til I kissed you!” I’m sure I put my head on his shoulder when Paul Anka belted out his Number One hit. What a night! No glass slippers, no pumpkin coach, but Kathey and I knew how Anastasia and Drizella would have felt if Tab Hunter and Paul Newman took them to the ball.
Back then, my favorite television show was “Father Knows Best.” That junior prom night, Mom knew.