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Like Gold


This post is all about Ben's prom. I didn't intend to devote a single post to that subject. It was just going to be a paragraph or two, included in my normal reportings and musings. But I guess I had more to say about it than I realized. I had the unique experience of attending all the events with him because of his needs. I realize that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. And it was unique because my own high school proms (parochial school) were a generation ago and lot less involved. Basically, we dressed up and ate a fancy meal together. We didn't know what we were missing, so it was ok. Our church offers a prom alternative event for the youth group kids (which Ben and David will attend in a couple of weeks) and that's pretty much the same thing. And the kids and parents are fine with it. But this was a unique opportunity for both Ben and I. Ben had told me a year ago he wanted to attend his senior prom. I didn't give him a definitive answer then because all I could think about were the things that could possibly go wrong. And besides, is it even okay for Christian kids to go to proms? I finally concluded that's really up a parent's personal convictions. But, still - how could this work? As it turned out, Ben wasn't waiting for an all-clear from me. He was bound and determined to go to Prom and mentioned that to a number of people at school. And the rest is history.

What a day and night that was! The weather was gorgeous – 75 degrees and sunny. All the parents and kids met at the city park so that was the first glimpse everyone had of the kids and their fancy clothes. Ben’s date, Deidra’s parents, (does that make sense?) had rented a party bus because the driver of that bus used to be Deidra’s school bus driver when she was a little girl and kind of took Deidra under his wing. So, her mom wanted her last bus ride to be with this particular driver. He was such a nice guy – a great big black man. Jennifer introduced me to him and immediately told him, “And Sarah has two African-American daughters!” Well, let’s just get that out there, why don’t we?! But he was a very sweet man. The day before he had lost his father (figure) of 35 years so I encouraged him to read Psalm 91 – told him how much comfort I found in that chapter.

I found out the bus was not going to have air-conditioning, so I made a quick trek back to my van at the school parking lot, climbed into the back where the tinted windows are, and ripped off my compression garment. I figured it was better to be lumpy than sweaty! And yes, in all the pictures taken of me later in the evening, I did look kind of dumpy. But – nobody was there to look at me, anyway. And most importantly, I wasn’t sweating! That’s probably too much information, but I really hate being hot.

Eventually, we got on the road. One of the kids had their phone plugged into the bus’s sound system, so the place was rocking. There were 5 or 6 couples, plus my friend, Jennifer, her husband, and me. We ate at the restaurant at Prairie Meadows. I’d never been there before. When Jennifer had first suggested it, I told her I had to think about it because, you know, it’s attached to a casino! I ran it by Will to see if he’d fall over at the idea but, instead, he looked at me like I’d grown two heads and said, “It’s just a restaurant, Mom!” Well, I suppose. It was a buffet – nice quality. I definitely felt younger as our time there went on because the restaurant began to fill up with its Saturday night crowd (who came in at 5pm) and they were all much older than me!

Jennifer was so sweet. I had expressed some concern about Ben eating and spilling food on his rented tuxedo. So she got the idea to buy him a tuxedo t-shirt to wear over his white dress shirt. And then, knowing how much he likes his minions, she also thought to get him a Minion beach towel to spread over his lap. And then, so he didn’t feel self-conscious (I think) she bought a towel for her daughter’s lap, too.

We then went back to the school and climbed into the gymnasium bleachers. I could not believe how crowded it soon got. Apparently, the entire town turns out for prom walk-in!


And now it’s a day later. This spreading my blogs out over the course of a few days is becoming a habit…of the harried, I suppose.

So, anyway, we sat in the bleachers for an hour. Then, one by one, or rather, couple by couple, they introduced the prom attenders. I had never been to a prom walk-in before, so this was interesting to me. I wonder if larger schools do this? That might take all evening if they do.

I enjoyed seeing the girls’ dresses. It looks like the strapless craze might finally be coming to an end. There were only a couple of those this year. A few dresses were immodest with the cleavage and a few just looked too “grown-up” with their plunging necklines and high slits. But overall, the dresses were nice. Sparkles are really big now and long is definitely the preferred length. A new fashion that I had not seen before are the two-part dresses. They made me think of belly dancers because they have a slightly cropped top and then the skirt portion sits at the hips, rather than the waist. There’s then a several inch gap of bared belly skin. I probably would not be crazy about my girls wearing something like that, but I’d rather see that than spilling cleavage. Jennifer told me the girls who wore those were tanning for weeks. I was wondering how their midriffs got so brown in the winter!

And the boys looked nice, too. Well, most of them. They all rented tuxedos, but tuxes don’t look like they did when I was in high school. They’re not that distinctive from a nice suit. Colored vests are definitely the “in” thing. Most guys wore dress shoes, but a few wore tennies or boots. One guy looked pathetic because he wore this black tux and then brand new white high top tennis shoes with no laces, with the cuffs of his pants tucked into the shoes. Dorky! But he had those expander rings in both his earlobes, so something is clearly not right with him. One guy had a camouflage vest with his coat and then wore a camo baseball cap in the walk-in.

And Deidra was right about the flowers – it’s kind of “anything goes” anymore. Some girls had corsages and some did not. Quite a few girls, instead of wearing flowers on their wrists, actually carried coordinating bouquets in their hands – like a bridesmaid. I had never seen that before in relation to Prom. Deidra’s parents ended up ordering both her corsage and Ben’s boutonniere – and then wouldn’t let me reimburse them.

So they got everyone through and then they had the prom court re-enter. They walked down the center aisle together and then the five boys moved to the left and the girls to the right. Since I had found out Ben was on the court, the thought had occurred to me more than once of “Wouldn’t it be something if…” and I’d quickly banish the thought. After all, Ben’s spot on that court was probably a “mercy” thing and there were some very upstanding, popular guys also on the court. It was enough that his classmates loved him enough to give him the honor of electing him to the court. Jennifer was so excited and she sat beside me. And my heart was pounding a bit, too, although I was very confident they would not be calling Ben’s name. Still, I told Jennifer, I felt like it was those final seconds before they announce the Miss America contest winner! And then they said, “And this year’s Prom King is…Ben Heywood!” And the crowd erupted. People were jumping to their feet and clapping and hollering and I just sat there absolutely stunned.

Ben is prom king? That little broken baby we took home from the NICU? That little baby that the head of the NICU told me to “never expect anything from”…is prom king? And I cried. Ben was as stunned as I was. He put his hands over hjs face and I didn’t know if he was excited or weeping or what. But he soon put them down and give the audience his signature two thumbs up.

Some moments are so golden and so precious that you know they are forever imprinted on your heart. This was one of them.

After all that excitement was the dance, which after what we’d just experienced was kind of anti-climatic! But I was curious to watch it. I’ve never been to a school dance in my entire life. I’ve heard Christians talk about how awful they are and so, I was interested to see for myself.

It wasn’t awful. The decibel level was pretty high and I took periodic breaks in the teachers’ lounge to give my ear a break from time to time, but it wasn’t bad. They played mostly popular music. Every song that’s been played on the pop stations the last 5 years got played during those four hours! Most of it was heart-pumping, fast songs. I don’t know if they played any slow songs, really. The kids just kind of did their own thing all night long. Sometimes during a dance you’d see a group of kids dancing with eachother, or two guys or two girls dancing with eachother, and during the same song you’d see a couple slow dancing. There were a few songs where the entire floor danced together. Those were kind of fun. Some of the boys got really silly, shucking off their dress shirts and then re-donning their vests and ties for the dance. They looked like Chippendale dancers. Some rolled up their pant legs into shorts. Dumb. Some of the boys climbed up on the stage in front of the dj and danced. Also silly. They are teenagers – I have to remind myself of that.

I was asked to help at the punch table, which didn’t involve punch at all – just snacks and water and lemonade. Then, later, they had me stationed by the back door to keep kids from going out to the parking lot. But, the math teacher told me it was fine if the kids needed to slip out for a little bit for some fresh air. She said she wasn’t worried about any shenanigans with “this group” but five years ago it would have been different, she added.

At one point I was walking back to the dance after having been in the lounge and there was a teenage girl sitting on the floor in the hallway crying. I looked at her and stupidly asked, “Is something wrong?” Well, duh…She wiped her eyes and said, “I know it’s so cliché, right – crying at your prom?” I told her I had never heard of that so I don’t know if it’s cliché or not (I’ve heard of other things traditionally happening on prom night, but not that!). So, I sat down on the floor beside her and just began to talk. I didn’t ask anything about why she was crying or even what her name was. And then she began to talk and a few minutes later she sniffed one last time and said, “Well, I think I’m going to go back in now” and so we both did. I was very surprised a couple of days later to get a friend request on Facebook from a name I didn’t know. When I clicked on this person, I realized it was her! So, she apparently knew who I was, even if I didn’t know who she was. And I must not have offended her too badly if she wanted to be FB friends after that. But I’m guess I’m getting to the age now where I can be of more help to young people, even though I’ve yet to parent any teenage girls of my own. Sometimes you need to stay out of their business and just let them share what they want.

The hands of the clock finally reached 11:30. I really did not expect Ben to make it all night long and even he had said his goal was to make it to 10pm. But he made it. The DJ announced that the next selection would be the last song of the evening and started playing the classic Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believing.” This is one of Ben’s all time favorite songs, anyway. But I watched all these kids on the dance floor, their faces turned toward the stage, moving their bodies as one, and they all began to sing the words to the song. And I was struck by the simplicity and beauty of that moment. All these young people were filled with the youthful joy that comes from living in the moment while anticipating the great unknown future at the same time. The kids would all wake up the next day and have chores that needed to be done and siblings that would annoy them and they’d have papers due the next week, but for this one shining night of their high school years, it was all about the moment. Long after the last bit of crepe paper was thrown away and the tuxes were returned to the stores, this moment of their lives is forever embedded in their hearts like a small bit of gold. Someday soon they’ll start living their adult lives, with all the joys and stresses that will bring, but every so often, they can pull out this shining night – this moment when they all paused on the dance floor and reveled in simply being young and alive.

I’m glad I got to be there.


  1. Sarah, thank you for taking the time to describe Ben's prom. Honestly, my own prom wasn't nearly as inspiring and I am SO glad it was a wonderful moment for him and the other kids. Wow! I'm thrilled his classmates chose him for Prom King. What a memory for him, and all of them, for the rest of their lives. Oh, back when I was in high school, our Homecoming King was a midget named Verne Troyer, who went on to become quite a famous actor.


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