Thankful for Prom Dresses

Thankful for Prom Dresses
28 November 2013

Thanksgiving Day is here. Here’s my thought. Today is too short for all the things I’m thankful for. Here’s one: like surviving Professor Daughter’s adolescence. It’s pretty obvious from this essay  that in the battle of parent out-smarting teens, I was ill-equipped and out flanked. Little wonder Professor Daughter went on to get her PhD from Yale, huh? 

On this day, I am thankful for Professor Daughter and all the memories.

Prom Dress: The Hunt is On  was originally published in the April/May 1997 issue of Manic Moms

My daughter would not deliberately devise an intricate campaign to get the perfect prom dress. It was not planned, just chance that we started the ‘hunt’ in a formal shop where she spotted someone else she knew. We had  to leave. What if both girls bought the same dress? End of first expedition. 
On the second, she took me to a resale shop where she found four dresses for other occasions, but no formal. I was ecstatic at the price tags! She hooked me with promises of coming back the next week for the new shipment. 
I’m ashamed to admit it. The third trip was my idea. It was a stupid thing to do, but I feel destined to do many stupid things. I suggested the department store, where I still swear she pointed out a number of likely dresses last year. This year they only stocked “old lady” dresses. She was right. I liked them. 
My husband warned me that I was weakening. I started the first trip with a definite price limit. Facing the fourth two weeks before prom, I’d forgotten limits. 
One evening soon after trip number three, my daughter called with a hot possibility at the mall. I got so excited that I volunteered to meet her in front of the store in fifteen minutes. 
“Which store?” 
“National Debt Shoppe.” My breathing stopped. I always carefully wiped my nose prints off the window after ‘shopping’, but I had never actually walked into that store.
I phoned my sister who regularly shops in National Debt Shoppe’s Dallas branch. She assured me everything would be fine. I should know better than to believe a woman with two preschoolers. National Debt Shoppe may serve her wine in Dallas, but here you shop dead sober. 
I met my daughter at the store as the manager was closing up. With a good salesperson’s ability to spot a desperate shopper, she smiled and held wide the door. 
The price tags of the lovely frocks being pulled from every rack for my Now smiling daughter flashed by. Shown to a very comfortable chair in the very large dressing room, I could not sit still. I had to see those price tags, and my daughter needed my help pulling on the delicate dresses. 
Thankfully the skimpy red number looked better on the hanger. But the elegant aqua was something else. My heart melted at the sight of my baby. Jeans and T-shirt puddled on the floor beside her, she twirled on bare feet. She was every inch a princess in the gentle folds of whisper-light chiffon. The light in her face was more than mere reflection from the bodice’s sprinkle of sequins. 
My baby is a woman, and she is beautiful.
Signing the charge slip with a shaky hand, I muttered, “This isn’t so expensive if you average out the infinite number of times it can be worn for the rest of your life.” 
“Oh, Mom. I can’t wear this next year!” 
I turned and with my usual cool choked out, “”Let me be perfectly clear. The next time I pay this much for a dress, you will be getting married in it. AND everyone I’ve ever met will be there. Count on wearing this dress to EVERYTHING until then.” 
She smiled. “It’s O.K., Mom. You can make next year’s.” 
I couldn’t believe my ears. Back in the fourth grade she threatened to quit school if I didn’t stop making her dresses. It’s not that I can’t sew. I simply find patterns with more than two seams an insurmountable challenge.
When she was little, I enjoyed picking out fabric and cute little bear buttons. 
I’m hunting the community college’s adult studies catalog for a dressmaking course. No pressure. I have a year to learn how to sew well. Do you suppose the fabric store still carries those cute little bear buttons?

Kath Boyd Marsh writes and looks forward to prom again this spring in Hoover, AL. 


  1. Cute story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. You just explained to me why neither of my two daughters went to prom. I made all of their special occasion dresses.

    1. LAUGHING OUT LOUD! I'm thankful for having you, and Janet as friends and readers.
      Happy Thanksgiving day!

  3. Now I'm thankful for you as a reader! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!


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