There are many moments in a parent’s life that signal “my child is growing up”—first words, first steps, getting on a school bus for the first time, graduating from T-ball to coach pitch to kids’ pitch, entertaining friends overnight, trading TV and videos for computers and PS 4’s.
Abby, our 15 year old, is currently escorting Krista and me through a few of those moments at what feels like warp speed. I wrote recently about her foray into the wild, wonderful world of driving an automobile, for instance. That is one of those moments. And let me note once more for the record that (so far) she’s acquitted herself quite nicely behind the wheel.
This weekend she went to the Greenville Homecoming dance. (She went last year, too). Wearing a very nice dress and a corsage. (She did that last year, too). With make-up on. (She did that last year, too). With a date. (She did NOT do that last year).
“So, Abby, tell me more about your date,” I coaxed her the week before the dance. “I don’t think I’ve met him, have I?”
“Yeah, you’ve met him once or twice, I think. I don’t remember where. But you’ve met him.”
“Hmmmm. You have so many guys around you all the time, Abby, it’s kinda hard to keep them straight. You’re a real play-uh!”
“Oh, for goodness sake, dad. Stop it. I have friends. Some are guys. Some are girls. Jaden [her date] is a friend, too.”
“What time is he coming to pick you up? Where are you going to eat? What time will you be back? Do you mind if I cook up a plan to embarrass you when he arrives?”
“Around 6:00, I think. Some Mexican restaurant. A little after 11:00. And, finally, whatEVER!”
A few hours before the appointed pick-up time Allie, one of Abby’s cohorts, arrived. The two of them were going to the dance together and had planned to help each other with various elements of “Homecoming Dance preparation.” Based on what I heard and saw, this involved facial make up, fingernail polish, coiffure arrangement, and liberal quantities of giggling.
At one stage, their laughter was so loud and copious I grew a little worried about their sanity.
“What’s going on up there?” I hollered to them.
“Nothing, dad, just, you know, Homecoming Dance stuff. That’s all.”
“Well, Abby, as I’ve told you before, I wouldn’t know what that means since I went to precisely zero Homecoming Dances.”
“Really?? Are you sure? Are you kidding?!?”
“Yes, really. Yes, I’m sure. I counted. Twice.”
They continued their activities, whatever they were, and obviously had a very good time doing so. The giggling and shrieks of exuberance proceeded unabated for a couple more hours. I
watched football downstairs and wondered what on earth could be so entertaining about exfoliating cream, eye shadow, and hairspray.
At the appointed hour, Jaden arrived with his parents and older brother. Another young man arrived with his dad, as did Ally’s mom and older sister (who was also going to the dance) and Abby’s aunt and grandmother. We gathered in our front yard to snap a few pictures of these rapidly maturing (but not yet mature) young men and women in different combinations and poses, trying desperately to capture this fleeting “my child is growing up” moment. Snap. Snap. Snap. Snap. Snap.
We concluded our picture-taking orgy, and I sought Abby out for a quick farewell hug.
“Have a great time, Abby.”
“I will, dad. I’ll try to remember lots of stuff to tell you about since, you know, you never went to one of these. Ha!”
I smiled, we hugged, and she and her coterie of friends and chaperones departed. A few moments later, I reentered the house and casually walked in the front hallway. There, I was arrested by a particular picture I’ve walked past absent-mindedly ten thousand times in the past few years.
It captures a 6 or 7-year-old Abby, beaming in a black-and-white dress, moments before leaving for her very first dance. Her date, wearing a white shirt and multi-colored tie (and also beaming), towers above her. Poor man, he has no idea what’s in store for him, what his children will put him through, how he will age.
The poor fellow stared at the picture for a minute, smiled, prayed silently for his daughter and his family’s future, and walked to the den to resume watching a football game.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.