Times have certainly changed since I was in high school. Today, you don't just ask a date to Homecoming, you have to do it in a unique way. A pizza delivered to your date's house with a message written in pepperoni; dressing up as Superman; meeting your date on a horse at the riding stable she boards her horse at, etc. I had forgotten just how trying and stressful Homecoming week can be - not just for the kids, who have a week full of special events and assemblies, but also the poor parents! And I am going to add - it is tough functioning as an only parent when life is basically ho hum and normal. But during a week like this one, the only parent routine takes on a new dimension!
By the end of the week I was worn out from running to the store for my youngest who first wanted to present flowers to his date when he asked her to the dance and then decided on candy (he ended up using nothing I purchased because his girlfriend was grounded and not allowed to see him! I gave the lovely flower bouquet to my oldest who gave it to his girlfriend). I had to go to the dry cleaners, order flowers, purchase socks, a shirt and two ties because there is a "rule" that the boy's ties "match" their date's dress. It was touch and go for a while when I couldn't locate the belts lost somewhere in the move - but we found two that would do.
I ended up taking my oldest to the doctor during the week because he was freaking out about his face breaking out. Then the boys wanted face cream and cover up, new deodorant and haircuts. And the dance tickets cost $60.00 and dinner about $160.00 between the two. The youngest was testy and rude to me all week (no doubt some of this was related to nerves but there is no other parent to absorb some of that excess anxiety being flung your way!).
But the real stress occurs the day of the dance - PICTURES! Although both boys go with large groups of friends, somehow the houses where the kids pose for photos before the dance always wind up at well-to-do families. I am the sole single/only parent in attendance and feel awkward and self-conscious. Then to top it off, we are in homes of families not having financial worries. I end up feeling jealous, envious and resentful. We live in a town filled with beautiful mini-mansions and historical showcases. One of the homes on Saturday had an amazing fish pond in the backyard, patio and garden that took my breath away. It was full of mission style furniture. The other was a restored historical home. Being in those homes made me miss the average, middle-class house I had to sell. Last year, when I was taking photos at least I was still a homeowner. This year I really felt the economic division between those who have and those in my position.
Taking the photos is hard enough for me because they are usually around 4:00 and I am unable to be in two places at once so I have to choose which boy to photograph and give a disposable camera to the other and hope a parent will snap a couple of shots for me. This year I was lucky to be able to attend both photo sessions since one was at 4:00 and the other 4:30. But as the locations were a distance away, it was rushed and stressful racing from one to the other. Other parents can split up and each take a kid if they have more than one going to the dance.
In the end, my sons looked handsome and their girlfriends beautiful. I remain proud that my boys continue to hold their heads high, that they are popular and accepted. Looking at the wealthy parents surrounding me as we took pictures made me think of how early in my widowhood, I felt such a disconnect to everyone around me. It wasn't that I felt superior or better than others, rather it was that I was thinking and being on another level. On Saturday I felt totally unconnected to these other parents, light years away!
I suppose having the photos taken in these beautiful homes makes the owners proud and gives them a chance to show off. Last year the hosts actually served cocktails and gourmet snacks to the parents! Wouldn't it be a hoot to offer to host the photo shoot for the next dance at our apartment? I could rent out the commons area in our complex, which is actually quite lovely (with its own set of mission furniture!). I just kept thinking as I stood among these fortunate parents, how different our lives are. But somehow this line of thought also made me feel proud of myself - to realize that out of all those people, I was probably the one surviving the most pain and loss.
Today I am grateful:
1. Homecoming 2009 was successful and is over!
2. The boys still fit into last year's suits so I didn't have to buy new ones.
3. That suits from Target look the same as those from department stores.
4. That the boys are popular and went to Homecoming.
5. Everyone made it home safe and sound (the boys and their friends and all the kids in our community).