When I think about high school, there’s nothing more iconic than The Prom. I’m reminded of it every year at this time when social media becomes a frenzy of gowns, tuxedos, corsages, and, at times, yes, awkward couple-y poses. The Prom is one of my favorite springtime traditions, even though I haven’t attended one in nearly 30 years.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in Rural Kentucky – not quite Appalachia, but “Horse Country” Kentucky – where bluegrass thrives on hilltops as far as you can see and where my high school prom took place in a former oil tycoon’s stately mansion, now referred to as Spindletop Hall.
The Prom was a really big deal at my high school. Wasn’t it at yours?
But – WOW – none of us in the middle-aged category or older can compete with the even bigger deal The Prom has become in recent years. There’s so much build-up now: the videos of the wacky invitations to The Prom and the photos of shopping for the gown – the high school version of “She said YES to the dress!” Back in the ‘80s, we were lucky to get a hand-scrawled note stuffed inside our locker as our invitation and prom dresses were sometimes hand-me-downs. Even a decade after my own high school days, my sister wore her Maid of Honor dress recycled from my wedding to her Senior Prom in the Spring of ‘99. Luckily, she looked lovely in seafoam green!
As I flip through all the fun and colorful prom photos every Spring on Facebook, I always take a stroll down my own Memory Lane. (I mean, don’t you?) Those recollections often take me to my sophomore year when I attended the Junior-Senior Prom with one of my first boyfriends. One year older than me, his name was Jim, and he was an identical twin. People often got Jim and his brother Bob confused, so they referred to both of them as “Jim-Bob” to avoid choosing the wrong name. My own stepfather called them this since he could never tell the young men apart.
Even before we went to the Spring of ’89 Prom together, Jim asked me on my first official date. I was 16 at the time. My mother was protective and hesitant to let me go. After all, I was her only daughter, and a typically sassy teenager, but a good, clean kid overall. So, she eventually caved and agreed to it. Next thing I knew, I was headed to Lexington, about 20 miles away, for a night at the movies. My first real date ever. I wish I could remember what movie, but since I never got to see it, that detail escapes me now. It could have been “Say Anything” or maybe “Field of Dreams” – two true classics from early 1989…
Whatever the flick, we were double-dating with another young couple from Bourbon County High School (yes, that really was the name of my high school.) Bill, the other guy, was driving. At dusk, we were taking backroads into the city. If you’ve ever been to Central Kentucky, you know that these roads are windy, twisty-turvy, narrow, and bordered by endless miles of plank horse farm fences. And behind those fences live actual horses. The kind that occasionally jump those fences.
You might be putting the pieces together about what happened the evening of My First Date. Two teenaged couples. One car. Curvy backroads. And, you guessed it, a horse that jumped the fence.
Boyfriend and I were in the backseat. When the horse’s head went through the windshield, we ducked as the glass shards flew our way. Amazingly, none of us were hurt, not even the girl in the front passenger’s seat, although the horse’s head came just inches from her own. Somehow, Bill as the driver had effectively slammed on the brakes and controlled the car enough to avoid diving into the deep ditch or crossing over into the other lane. And the biggest miracle was the horse itself. Only his head made impact with the car through the windshield, and he pranced away with a few scratches. Eventually, his owners wrangled him back into the safety of his fenced, calm bluegrass pasture.
After State Police arrived, checked everyone out, and took a report, they sent all of us back home. No movie. No buttered popcorn to romantically share out of one bucket. No first real date for me.
What relevance does this 30-year old story possibly have to life in 2019?
We face many firsts in our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s the first time we meet someone or the first time we do something or the first time our kids experience something new. Thinking of memorable first-time events in recent years, there was the first time I became the mother of a teenager, the first time I watched my younger daughter score a soccer goal (in fact, she had a hat trick during that game!), the first time I posted a blog here at iamyourmom.com, and the first time I parasailed, only a month ago. Looking forward and God willing, there will be countless more firsts for both you and me. I can only imagine how fantastic and emotional they will be. I often think about when The Precious Pair will graduate, leave for college, get married, and have children of their own. Yikes, Life! Please slow down the milestones, would you?
Yet one thing is truer than true. Things have gone wrong. Things do go wrong. Things will go wrong. That’s what’s interesting about life and growth. Without the curves and obstacles and busted windshields, we aren’t challenged. We don’t gain the same kind of experience and wisdom when things go perfectly. So, we must learn to live with the things that go wrong. Learn to welcome them into your day like the hidden favors and lessons they are. Learn to recognize all the first times that go awry as the true gifts of second chances they become.
My next opportunity to go on a date with my first love Jim was The Prom, where this blog began. Since he and I had endured together the strange collision with the horse, we were as happy and cute and carefree as ever, crossing arm-in-arm over the threshold of the building pictured above.
There’s a first time for everything to go wrong.
Luckily, that’s often followed by a second chance for things to go quite beautifully.