Crayola Red Prom
By Marsha Tennant
The crayola red chiffon and taffeta formal framed the department store window. It hung on the headless model with an attitude. The heart-shaped bodice radiated boldness and beckoned me with a dare. I was the girl for that dress. There was no doubt that the moment was fate. My mom and I were supposed to walk by on that day.
The strapless formal was the most beautiful creation I had ever seen. It reminded me of the Doris Day and Grace Kelly movies. They floated around with an understated sexiness and innocence rolled into one. The elaborate sets accentuated the glamour of the fashions they were wearing. Everyone stopped and was mesmerized when they walked into a room. I wanted to be a star for one night at my junior prom.
My mom agreed that the formal was spectacular. She loved glitz and drama, too. She was always dressed to the nines and slightly on the edge so she understood my obsession with this fashion find. The year was 1965 and the dress had to be pricey for the occasion, but my mom must have remembered something in her past as a girl and saw it in my eyes as we stood outside the store peering in at the display.
The challenge would be to get my dad’s approval. Would he let me go out in a strapless CRAYOLA RED formal? Mom and I devised our plan. We thought that we could bring it home on approval and in the living room setting it would appear less threatening. Once I modeled it for my dad he would see that it would pass his criteria for what he thought a young lady should wear. Mom also had a secret weapon-a lovely white lace shawl to drape over my shoulders. She and I were on a mission.
We were ready for action. We decided I would model the dress on Sunday afternoon after church and dinner. It was the most relaxed time of the week in our house. Mom set the stage by telling Dad we had found the perfect prom dress for me. She reminded him I was growing up and the junior prom was the big event of the school year. We both held our breath.
The walk down the hall into our living room was a short distance, but it seemed like a mile to me. I turned the corner and saw my dad sitting in his favorite chair. He was reading the Virginian Pilot newspaper. He looked up as I entered the room. His face was blank but I watched as a slight red tinge began to come over him. Mom and I exchanged glances. We were unsure what to say or do. Dad didn’t utter one word.
Slowly he got up from the chair and came over to me. His voice was low and sweet. “You look beautiful, Pumpkin. Guess my little girl has grown up.”
I was speechless as I threw my arms around his neck and whispered that I would not let him down. Without saying anything my dad had communicated his expectations of how I was to behave in such a grown up gown. There was no lecture he could have given me that would have expressed his views any clearer. Remember Who You Are echoed in my head.
The day of the prom arrived. I spent hours at the beauty salon getting my beehive style. To achieve this look required mega teasing techniques and at least one canister of Aqua Net hairspray. Once I was home the liquid eyeliner required several trial runs. The grand finale was getting the stockings on without a run. I always had a spare pair. It was time to slip on the beautiful red gown. My heart was pounding with excitement.
My date arrived with a red and white wrist corsage. He was wise enough not to glare at my red formal in front of my parents. The Polaroid snapped endless pictures by the fireplace. I felt like I was in Hollywood at the Oscars. The last picture was taken with my dad. I still have that one in my cedar memory box.
The curfew was set, and we were on our way. Mom handed me the white lace shawl, and I wrapped it around my shoulders before walking out into the warm spring evening. At the end of the sidewalk I turned to look back at my parents standing by the door. They were smiling as my date held the car door open for me.
One last glance back…Doris and Grace were waving! Oh what a night!
About this writer
- Marsha Tennant is the author of the children’s book, Margaret, Pirate Queen. She was recently published in AARP Bulletin and Mary Jane’s Farm. She and her husband retired and moved to the beach from Calabash in an attempt to downsize and spend time with their new grandson. A second Pirate Queen book is circling while porch sitting these days!