The other day a memory popped up on Facebook, a picture of my son and my niece when they were little. They were both sitting in beach chairs, side by side at the park. It made me remember the family outing we had with my brother and his family. We went to the state park and had a picnic. I remembered when Max was little with his blonde hair. I remembered his sweet face and his easy going disposition. “My tux arrived today,” Max said. I was brought immediately to the present and my nostalga for the past disappeared in an instant. That little boy is now almost an adult and headed to the prom. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by.
How is it possible that my little boy is old enough to go to the prom? I need a minute to not only digest this reality but to savor it as well. It’s been a few decades since I attended my own high school prom. While taking pictures of the prom goers, I was surrounded by other parents who were in the same strange reality. A place between feeling young and thinking our own proms weren’t that long ago to the realization that we had actually become our parents, a sobering thought.
As we gathered on the golf tee with groups of teens all posing for pictures, a woman turned to me and said, “And who are you wearing?” We all laughed and then we reminicsed about our own dresses compared to the ones of today. “We didn’t have dresses like these,” the woman remarked. “My mother wouldn’t have allowed me to wear some of these dresses,” I replied. It true, the prom dresses of the 80’s weren’t all bad but I have a distinct memory they mostly looked like left-over 70’s bridesmaid. For my senior prom I think my dress actually had a hoop skirt. I thought it looked awesome. My children would probably cringe if they saw the photo. Luckily its buried deep somewhere in my basement.
I remember my senior prom like it was yesterday. I remember the excitement of finding a dress at a local dress shop. My dress was a pretty shade of lavendar and had a full, hoop skirt, a left-over bridesmaid dress for sure. I remember how excited my mother was when I tried it on. “It looks great on you!” she said. I clearly said yes to the dress because we bought it. I went to the prom with my high-school boyfriend. This was before promposals were a thing. We were dating and I can’t remember if he asked me or it was just assumed we were going together. I had a date and a dress and that’s all that mattered.
Once at the prom, I remember it was a lot of fun. I sat with my friends and had a great time. We had dinner and danced and I enjoyed the evening immensely. I don’t remember who the king and queen were because I don’t think that part was important to me. A popularity contest was never my thing. There was one moment that sticks out in my mind from that night. My mother snuck into the prom to see me. My date and I were on the dance floor, twirling around and I look over and who is standing on the edge of the dance floor but my mother. I had never seen her look so happy.
My date and I went over to the edge of the dance floor where my my mother and her close friend who had joined her for the prom visit stood. “This has to be quick,” my mother said, “weren’t not supposed to be in here.” I remember being confused and happy to see her at the same time. My mom had taken the obigatory picture on the front step of our house of me and my date but she wanted to see me at the dance. She wanted to see me enjoying myself at the prom. I didn’t understand at the time why my mother wanted to see me. However, as soon as my son got dressed in his tux and we began taking pictures of he and his date, it hit me.
I know now that my mother was trying to savor the joyous event and stay close to me. I was focused on the moment, enjoying the prom, my date, my friends. My mother could see the big picture. I had turned eighteen the month before and soon would be headed off to college. I didn’t realize at the time how in a few short months my life would be turned upside down. The life as I had known it, living with my mother in our house and going to high school would change forever. As the youngest of four children, my mother knew this all too well. She knew our time together would change soon and she was trying to hold on to every important occasion.
A wise person once said, “Stop and smell the roses.” In our fast paced lives this couldn’t be a truer statement. There are moments in our lives that we need to stop and appreciate and savor. We need to savor these life moments, rites of passage and important events because they define who we are. They define us as individuals, couples, friends and families. We take pictures and record these moments so we don’t forget. Some day we will look back at these memories. We will remember how much fun we had or how special we felt or how proud we were.
Like my mother did with me, I can feel the time slipping away with each special occasion, event or mileston my son reaches. I remember when Max learned to ride a two-wheel bike on his own. I was steadying him from behind, holding on until I thought he was ready to pedal the bike on his own. I finally let go and watched him pedal down the road, away from me. I was estactic and sad all at the same time. I was thrilled that he finally learned to ride a bike but then panic stricken that he was now capable of riding off on his own. I realized then, as I do now, that with the joy of watching your child achieve a skill like riding a bike, earning an award or attending a prom can bring fear or even sadness. Sadness because they don’t need you as much or in quite the same way.
It’s my job to teach my son to be independent. I revel in his accomplishments. I am proud of the young man he is becoming. I often joke with my colleagues at work that I can’t wait for him to live on his own and I won’t have to deal with his smelly, messy room. He drives me crazy with the messes he leaves all over the house. He eats constantly and I sometimes wonder if I’ll need to take on a second job to pay for the weekly grocery bill. Another wise person said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I keep reminding myself of this quote. “You’ll miss those messes,” other empty nesters have shared. “The house is too quiet,” my friend said. I’m not sure how I will miss Max and his brother arguing in the morning before school over who is making who late. I don’t think I’ll miss his foul smelling socks or athletic work-out clothes not washed on his bedroom floor. I know for sure I will miss him.
Max attended two proms this spring and I would have happily taken a third. I am grateful he is a junior and I have more time with him. I know however that a year is not very long. Our time as mother and son will change soon. He is not the little boy anymore, like in the picture that popped up on Faceobook. He is a young man, soon to be an adult. Not too far in the future and he will be off to find his own adventures and explore the world. Yes, he’ll return and we will be together from time to time, but it won’t be the same. I made sure to take a lot of pictures of Max and his date for the prom. I want to remember these memories forever. I want to keep him close to me while I still can. I was so happy to see him happy. I didn’t sneak into the prom to catch a glimpse of him enjoying the dance, maybe next year.