Sifting through the manila envelope on his kitchen table, one photograph in particular startled me. There we were – he grinning broadly at the camera while I smiled more tentatively. His jacket was off, shrugged off somewhere in the unfamiliar living room behind us, and he held my hand.
I don’t talk a lot about my history. My deep history. The stuff of growing up. Truth be told, I don’t remember most of it. Sometimes, a story or picture will spark a flag of recognition and I’ll hesitantly ask questions, hoping the answer doesn’t shake me.
This was my senior prom. The boy and I weren’t dating. But I’d always wanted to go to prom. I’d not dated in high school and I’d not gone to any high school dance. We had little money and a lady in the church offered to buy the fabric for a prom dress and another lady, in Splendora, Texas, I remember that clearly, offered to sew it. I clipped pictures from magazines and dreamed of a floor length sequin gown with a high collar, cut out arms, and a smaller cut out back.
I had no date. There was a nice boy who played varsity football in my computer science class. He was a junior and it took all the courage I had to ask him to go with me. I’d been taught never to ask a boy out, and certainly I had no experience with it. But my desire to go to senior prom was just that strong.
He said yes.
Here’s the stunning thing looking back on that photo.
He said a lot more than yes.
First, I didn’t drive. So he agreed to take his car and take us all over the city. He began with a stop at our modest apartment to pose for pictures.
Then he drove to the unfamiliar living room in the picture. “I don’t remember this furniture,” I said quizzically as I turned to my dad, “did we come to your house on my prom night?” Dad didn’t think so but scrutinized the furniture in the picture. “Houston?,” he asked. “Yes, I’d have been in Houston, so it would have had to be Houston,” I replied. Then we foggily remembered together. My dad had moved to Houston years after the divorce. He and his wife took a job at one of those teaching homes in downtown Houston. A place for troubled teens. I rarely saw him. I remember the job hit me particularly hard at the time, only just now remembering, because he was parenting teenagers, just not me.
So in walks this boy, with whom I have nothing more than a passing relationship from computer science class, and he drives me from my mom’s house to my dad’s teaching house in an edgy part of town with troubled teens. No wonder I smiled tentatively. Yet there he stood, bravely and confidently smiling back at the camera.
He went on to take us to a pre-prom party, then to a fancy dinner, then to the actual prom, and then to the prom after party. I arrived home at 5 am.
I have no idea what kind of a boy he was outside of that prom date, but during that prom date he was a hero. He opened doors and went through all the prom paces with a girl who wasn’t popular or outgoing. All of my senior year in high school I’d worn a back brace because I’d had a back disease my junior year which left me bedridden from November to April. I wasn’t involved in any school activities. I babysat and cleaned houses and went to church and studied. That was my senior year.
He offered to dance with me during the prom but I’d never danced before (I had been raised in a very conservative Baptist home). Finally, near the night’s end, I agreed to step out on the floor to Lady in Red. When the dj moved to the last song, Hotel California, I closed my eyes and leaned into the kind broad-shouldered high school junior who’d agreed to come to the prom.
He hugged me goodnight at the front door. I’d never been kissed and it’s as if he knew.
I’m so grateful to have found this picture and the memory. I hope I can raise the kind of boys who will treat girls like this one did. I hope they can tackle challenging situations with as much grace and confidence.