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Oh, Prom. You Mess With My Heart.


I found out on Tuesday that prom was happening.  

I mean, I knew prom was happening, the same way I always know Easter will happen.  And then it sneaks up on me, and people need new shoes before the weekend.

We’ve done a few proms now, my guys and me.  I loosely include my own pronouns in that statement, and yet I am kind of a central player.  A boy mom is sort of like the stage manager who never steps on stage on the night of the show, who gets a shout out in the small print of the program, but who has enough responsibility that things wouldn’t come together if she didn’t provide costuming and cash.

Every year on Prom weekend, I think, “I bet all the girl-moms knew the details of the night. It’s the girls who pull this thing off.”

All of us boy-moms are checking with each other, stitching together pieces of information, and asking permission from our sons if we can stay nearby and watch as long as we promise not to stage any photos or fix any bra straps. We gave the young men our debit cards before we left home, just to make sure there’s enough money to go around.

I watch the girls, and I think, “I bet all of these young people think I’m so old. I know what I thought of the moms standing around while I was having my prom photos taken. I know what they think of me.”

Part of me feels like my own glorious prom nights were only a decade ago, not that far in the rearview mirror. Another part of me has to keep a fresh pair of pajamas by the bed every night in case of hot flashes. That’s a very, very real part of me.

I suddenly realize how thin the resources are when prom comes around.  There’s only one mom, and there’s one dad.  Before this week, there was only one pair of dress shoes.  The guys wear the same size, so they pass them back and forth as needed. On the day of prom, there was a hustle and bustle for ties and shoes and cars, of who would have what and when and enough.

I thought we covered it all.  I confirmed the details on various phone calls and text messages. I sent them off – one with his girl, one with the guys, both of them to drive into the city and look like men who own the night. I got up this morning to check in their bedrooms, to see that everyone made it home safely and sober. 

They had lunch with me when they woke up this afternoon. I learned how they dominated the dance floor with their own choreography.  They have moves all their own, and the cheering crowd nearly sets the place ablaze. I learned about prom and after prom and the photos outside in the springtime snow.

I also learned about a detail we missed, a place I meant to be. One of the guys stopped by the house for a costume change, a detail of the plan of which the stage manager had not been informed.  He came home to an empty house, and he needed someone to help him tie his tie.  Brace yourself for this: He went knocking on doors and found a dad.  That dad tied his tie.  While he was over there, that mom snapped a few photos.  So, if you’re wondering if you got prom right, know that my son’s senior prom pictures happened in somebody else’s living room, where someone else’s dad tied his tie and someone else’s mom snapped a few photos.

Just when you think they don’t need you, they do. It messes with my heart, all of this.  Their brotherhood, their independence, their problem solving, their friendship, their moments together that require so little of me. And yet, they’re doing it and they did it.  The shoes have some scuffs, but the cars do not, and the boys became another increment of men.

I’ll be writing a thank you note to the neighbors.

Tricia Lott Williford

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