I must be mindful of when to cut our grass this week.
April has been, to put in politely, fickle.
Snow flurries the first week. A flirtation with highs near 80. A late freeze. Damp rains. Highs in the 60s. Now frost warnings once again, snow flurries expected.
Those in the know around here say to not do any spring planting until after Derby.
Well, they’re not called “in the know” for nothing, right?
I’m sure the grass in your yard grows much the same as in ours (this in spite of the fact that yours always seems so much greener to me than my own). Rapid spurts and stops following the rains that propel it upward and the cold spells that put it to brief slumber. We keep up with it as best we can and if we get a little behind, well, who’s perfect?
But this week I have to time it just so. For it is Prom week… and they’ll be coming for pictures.
From the French “promenade,” to walk or stroll. “Prom” — a formal dance with traditions originating among northeastern prep schools and colleges; rooted deeper still to bygone debutante balls; becoming more common amongst American high schools since the 1920s and ‘30s.
Prom — a rite of adolescence, a rite of spring, a rite of passage.
All right…all right…all right.
Owing to a nice enough view and my wife’s wonderful landscaping, our yard has become a great place to take pre-Prom photos, weather permitting. The tradition started with our children and their dates dropping by and has expanded to include friend groups and sometimes their families for a photo-op. Although usually it’s folks from New Albany High School, we’ve had some from Floyd Central and I believe a few from Providence as well. The more the merrier.
So, you see, the “they” in “they’ll be coming for pictures” applies to any number of people, meaning that the grass must be cut correctly, simply has to be.
It’s all about timing.
If the window of opportunity is missed by a day or two, we’ll have young woman in evening gowns with grass above their ankles being feasted upon by “no see ‘ems”; cut too close to the event and lawn clippings will clump upon the formal footwear. But if we hit it just right there is no better place to appreciate Whitman’s “handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrance designedly dropt,” than our late April yard.
Admittedly, I am guilty of complaining to my wife about the hassle of hosting what has become an annual event, but the truth is I have grown rather fond of it. It lasts but an hour or two and the groups’ nervous energy makes my own Proms of almost 40 years ago tangible to memory even if only briefly so.
Now where was I in the spring of 1984?
Oh, yes, a senior at New Albany High School.
Not the coolest nor the most athletic. Not the smartest, not the funniest and, uh, sure as heck not the best looking.
But by this time I had figured out that I had at least a small enough pinch of each of the above qualities to make or at least fake my way through most of the challenges high school threw at me.
Still, when it came to romance, I was a perpetual proverbial “third wheel,” meaning my friends had their dates for Prom lined up way before I did.
As February approached March I remember the pressure of securing a date — that same pressure I’m sure kids still feel today. But no texting, no social media to assist. I had to ask the old-fashioned way, and by that I mean a land line phone.
After weeks of primitive, uncomfortable flirtation I finally asked the girl I’d set my sights on out and thankfully she said “yes.”
Great! Now all that was left was arranging my Prom group (we didn’t call it such back then, and they were much smaller), arranging dinner reservations (I don’t recall where, perhaps Kunz’s the Dutchman) and transportation (“Dad, can I use the car Saturday?” — no limo); and flowers (that was awkward). Not to be forgotten, who would be in charge of sneaking a flask of refreshment along for the evening?
Before I knew it, the big night was at hand. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was scared.
Oh, the sweaty, uncoordinated fumbling of nervous fingers! (I am speaking of trying to tie my bow tie good people. What were you thinking!?)
Has anyone, anywhere, at any time ever felt comfortable in a tuxedo? There was more of Joseph Merrick preening before his mirror than James Bond about me, and yet even with my week-of-Prom pimple from Hades eruption, I had to admit, I looked good!
Or at least good enough to get on with things: picking up my date, small talk with her parents, photos with the families; fine dining without staining my or anyone else’s attire, yes! I brought enough cash to cover the meals; navigating downtown Louisville traffic and finding parking in time to make it to our venue. The latter of utmost importance because our Prom was held on the Belle of Louisville and if you were late you would literally miss the boat!
We boarded in time. The Belle’s calliope whistled out in song and the gang plank was raised. “Bon Voyage!” We waved goodbye to some of our parents congregated at the dock as well as to a few classmates who, as fortune willed, had been left behind.
The evening passed with blurs of coarse humor, nervous laughter, dancing both tender and wild to the strains of Michael Jackson and Irene Cara and John Cougar (later Mellencamp).
All too soon the ship returned to dock, that part of our journey ended.
The night passed in general revelry but not debauchery.
The next morning I awoke with a slight headache but also with a sense of some accomplishment. No grand metamorphosis had occurred, but I undeniably felt worldlier; more capable, more adult.
Perhaps that is why memories well up so vividly when I and my contemporaries stand to take photos rather than pose for them each spring as our own youth fades…that part of our journey ended.
Class of 2021, enjoy your Prom whatever form it takes!
Dance tenderly, dance wildly to 24kGoldn or perhaps Ava Max. (Yes, of course, I had to look those up.)
If you want a “golden oldie”, have the DJ drop some Cougar, “Jack and Diane” and heed his warning: “Hold on to 16 (…17…18) as long as you can, Changes come around real soon make us women and men.”
“They walk (or stroll, or promenade) on!”