Senior Prom

Senior Prom.

It’s a tradition that has been popular in the United States since the 1930s. For those who didn’t know, “prom” is short for “promenade,” which is defined as “the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party,” according to mentalfloss.com. I know proms were definitely popular by the 1950s, because my own mother, whose nickname was “Doll” because she was so tiny, was a prom queen at her high school in Alabama. I remember my own high school proms in the 1980s with fond memories. And now, it’s time for our daughter to go to her senior prom.

Our daughter was lucky to even have a prom last year. The previous two years, prom was cancelled because of…you guessed it, COVID. But last year, when our daughter was a junior, our school made a real effort, even in the middle of a mask mandate, to make sure our kids had a prom. (If I ever complain about our school, I need to also remember how hard they tried to make things better for the kids during COVID.) It was outdoors. I didn’t get to see it in person, of course, because here in Charlotte, parents don’t go to the “lead out” like they do in some areas. I am actually glad about that…no offense to those who do…but I don’t feel like I have any business at my daughter’s prom. We go take photos at a club or someone’s house beforehand with a group, and groups of couples go to dinner before going to the actual prom. That’s the norm here, and that’s what they did last year. The kids were so excited to feel somewhat “normal” again last year, and our daughter and her beau had a great time and made lovely photos and lasting memories.

This year, things are much more normal. They are gathering for photos and dinner beforehand and going to an actual indoor prom! So exciting! I’m just thankful she is having a “normal” senior prom. She’ll make memories just like we did back in the 1980s…except there won’t be as much hairspray as there was in the 80s. They will take lots more photos than we did, because they have smartphones. They might even take some silly videos or make some TikToks. In fact, in 2022, the girls won’t have big hair, but the boys will. The dresses will be more revealing now than they were in the 80s…back when we covered our bodies in as much fabric as possible. I still don’t know how we got dates wearing all the baggy clothes we wore. Wow…it has been a long time since my senior prom. They will have fun, I’m sure, but really…the prom itself is just the excuse to get dressed up, get photos, and go to a party afterward, I think. They just enjoy being together…just like we did back in the 80s…so that’s still the same.

I hope they will remember to stop and take mental notes throughout the evening…just enjoy the moment. It’s a memorable occasion. Everyone who goes to prom remembers it. They might not remember lots of details, but everyone will remember who they went to prom with. They will remember what they wore. They might remember where they had dinner. They will even remember some funny things that happen. Because it’s an emotionally-charged night, it’s a memory that gets imbedded in their long-term memories. I’ve written before that I learned a lot about long-term and short-term memory when my husband had brain surgery. Big emotional events land in our long-term memory, because of the emotions attached to them. It’s why we remember where we were when someone dies. It’s why we remember where we were when we fell in love.

It’s not just a big night for the students, though. The senior prom marks the end of an era for parents too. Since my husband and I have just one child, this is the end of the high school line for us. And it’s the first time our daughter has ever trusted me to pick a dress for her. That’s a memory in itself!

I hope they all have a great time. I hope they all have a safe night and make good decisions. I hope they make some great memories to look back on when they’re my age. I hope they’ll enjoy this big event together, because these seniors will be going in different directions soon. Many of them have been in school together since they were four or five years old. Life is changing! Those little kindergarten students I remember from 2009 are finishing their stint at their independent school and moving on to college…many in different states!

Good times…senior prom.

Late Night Grilled Cheese

Late night grilled cheese.

Last night, my daughter and one of her friends came back to our house to sleep after going to a party. They got home around midnight. My daughter poured herself a bowl of Reese’s Puffs cereal, but her friend requested a grilled cheese sandwich. I was flattered that she asked and happy to make it. All my daughter’s friends know I make a “special” grilled cheese. I know you’re thinking “it’s just grilled cheese,” but if you’re thinking that, you have never had my grilled cheese.

The girls went upstairs, taking their food with them (they remembered to bring their plates and cups down), and a little while later, my daughter texted me asking if some friends could come over for a little while. She asked, very nicely, if I would prepare grilled cheese sandwiches for her friends. I was secretly thrilled she had asked, so I responded, “Tell them to come on over, and tell them to come in through the garage. I will get the grilled cheese ready. Y’all will need to stay in the kitchen and keep it down to a low roar, so we don’t wake your daddy.”

Y’all might think I’m crazy. (Trust me when I say it wouldn’t be the first time someone called me that.) My husband certainly does. He thinks midnight is too late to be awake, so when I tell him we are having visitors after midnight…well, he just can’t process that concept. Who in their right mind would let teenagers come over in the middle of the night for grilled cheese sandwiches? I can tell you who…me! I love when they want to come to our house! I’m a total night owl who loves her daughter’s friends! I love that they request my “special” grilled cheese! I’m always happy to see them. So when I closed the door behind me on the way to the kitchen, I told my husband to go on to sleep. He said, “Make sure the door is locked and the alarm is on before you come back to bed.” He then rolled his eyes at me, and I closed the door.

I was pulling one of my favorite hoodies on over my pajamas as I walked into the kitchen and started getting out all the ingredients. Just as I had gotten started, I heard my daughter and her friend come downstairs and meet the guests as they came in through the garage. They came into the kitchen and started laughing and talking…music to my ears. Now I understand why my mother loved to have my friends over. Even after I became a full-fledged adult (in my forties), she loved when I had my friend, Angela, meet me at her house for a visit. I guess Angela and I revert back to college-age, because Mother always said, “I feel like I have college students in my house again!” She loved it.

There are lots of reasons I like to see my daughter’s friends walking into my kitchen. I’m glad they feel comfortable showing up here whenever they like. I’m flattered they like my “special” grilled cheese. (Yes, it really is special, and I won’t give away my secrets.) I love hearing them laugh and talk. But most of all, I am especially happy that they know I am a friendly face for them, and our house is a safe space. During the late night visits, I always take the opportunity to remind them they can call me to pick them up anytime they need a ride. And I hope they will remember these nights fondly years from now. I have mentioned before that my next-door neighbor once told me the friends of her grown children tell her some of their best high school memories were made at her house. I want these kids to say the same thing. I want them to have good memories of coming to our house to hang out. I want them to feel comfortable rehashing their evening fun while I “cook.” And yes, I want them to laugh about my willingness to make grilled cheese sandwiches for them at any hour.

Juniors and seniors show up on a regular basis. The seniors that come for visits are going off to college soon.But I’m not just making memories for them. I’m getting to know them all better, and I’m making memories for myself too! What I’m really hoping is that they will come visit me when they come home from college over the next few years. I’m hoping they’ll ring my phone and ask if they can come over for a late night grilled cheese.

And while they’re here, I hope they’ll say, “Some of my best high school memories were made at your house, Mrs. Mattei!”

Movies for My Senior

Movies for my senior.

We are not a movie family. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because two of us have Attention Deficit Disorder, but we just don’t sit down and watch movies very often. Sure, during COVID shutdowns, I forced our daughter to watch a few movies with me (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Clueless and Sliding Doors, all of which received two thumbs up from her), but generally speaking, we don’t watch movies.

However, we are nearing her high school graduation, and I feel like we are under the gun. I feel like there are movies she needs to see. This occurred to me tonight as I was making our daughter one of my famous grilled cheese sandwiches (yes, they are famous among the teenage set in Charlotte)…and singing the theme song from the 70s movie, Car Wash…because that’s what I do…I sing while I work. But while I worked and sang tonight, I realized I’ve been remiss! I should have shared more of my favorite movies with her! She leaves for college in four months, and I need to squeeze in some classics from my youth (and a few others) before she goes! We talked about it tonight, and she agreed to watch some of them with me over the next few months.

So I sat down and made a list, but as I made the list, one movie would lead to another! The list is now at more than 35 must-see movies. There is no way we will watch 35 movies in the next few months, so I will start with some of my personal favorites.

  • Sense and Sensibility. I know this one is unexpected, but this is one of my all-time favorites…the one starring Emma Thompson. I am a firm believer that every woman on earth should read Jane Austen’s novels, and the best way to get started is by watching this film adaptation. The scenery is beautiful. The people are gorgeous (Mr. Darcy!), and the story is one of the best ever. If you think I’m crazy for having this one at the top of the list, you haven’t seen it. Watch it. And after you watch it, read the book. You’ll understand the language and characters better after seeing the movie. And when you finish reading Sense and Sensibility, move on to her other novels… Pride and Prejudice while the rhythm of the language is fresh in your brain…then Mansfield Park, Emma (also a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and the modern-day Clueless is loosely based on it), Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.
  • Risky Business. Anyone who was a teenager in the 80s knows this is an essential film. Tom Cruise became really famous after making this bit of cinematic history. Other great teenage movies from the 80s were, of course, the John Hughes films: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club. Come on…Mr Hughes directed the stories of our lives! He introduced us to relatable characters! We knew those people! Another great? Fast Times at Ridgemont High, for sure…didn’t we all know some version of Spicoli?

I dug a little deeper and came up with lots of other favorites. Some have cultural significance, and some don’t. Anyone who was a teen in the 80s knows St Elmo’s Fire, with its Brat Pack cast, had a huge influence on our lives. Throw in About Last Night for more Brat Pack action.

But there are other favorite movies that are not based on the 80s. Muriel’s Wedding, starring Toni Collette, is a less-known film that I think offers a great story and some wisdom to go with it. And every time I see my friend, Kristi, we have to watch Brooke Shields in Endless Love…what a teenage love story that is!

I’m sure everyone has their own favorites. Please feel free to share! Here is my list of essentials. I’m sure I have forgotten some…

  • Airplane!-slapstick comedy circa 1980. It’s stupid. It’s funny. It’s iconic.
  • American Graffiti-a coming-of-age film set in the early 1960s in California. It’s all about cruising in Modesto in one night. Released in 1973, the cast is stellar. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by George Lucas. It’s a must-see film for every American.
  • Animal House-An American classic. No one should go to college without seeing this film. John Belushi and great music…need I say more?
  • Back to the Future-released when I was a teenager, this film is a classic. The sci-fi concept takes the lead character (played by Michael J Fox) back in time, via a Delorean car turned time machine, to the 1950s, where he meets his parents as teenagers. It’s funny and thought-provoking.
  • The Bad News Bears-I think this movie gives kids a glimpse into life in the 1970s, when people smoked everywhere and a drunk might just be your little league coach. Not one kid on that team had a helicopter parent!
  • Breakfast Club-John Hughes…no need to say more. Teenagers today are very familiar with the film, and Nickelodeon’s Victorious even did a parody of it a few years ago.
  • Caddyshack-How many times did I watch Caddyshack as a teenager? It was on HBO all the time, and if nothing else was on, I could always settle in and watch Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray. And everyone remembers the poop in the pool scene. It’s a funny movie, and people make references to it all the time, so everyone needs to be familiar with it.
  • Dirty Dancing-I had friends in college who saw this film on the big screen multiple times. The music is great. The setting…a resort in the Catskills…is fun. And the characters are well-defined. I think this movie wasn’t supposed to be a hit, but it was a sleeper! Women fell in love with Patrick Swayze, and the music from the 60s will keep you dancing in your seat. Again…lots of references come from this movie. “I carried a watermelon.” “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” You knew it before I said it.
  • Endless Love-I will be the first to admit it’s not the greatest movie. But the story is intriguing, and don’t all teenage girls love a good love story? This one has lots of twists and turns. Must-see. ***For another Brooke Shields movie, I would say Blue Lagoon, but I’m not sure I can sit through it again.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High-Another coming-of-age film, this one is set in California. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe, who went undercover at a high school in San Diego. Anyone who grew up in the 80s knew someone like each of the characters. Some sheltered teenagers of 2022 will be shocked by some of the storylines and candor, but others will likely shrug. And didn’t all boys fall in love with Phoebe Cates when they saw this movie?
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner-This film is an American classic. I took my daughter to see it on the big screen several years ago, but she fell asleep. She needs to see it again, as it addresses racism and the struggle for equality.
  • The Goonies-I’m almost embarrassed to say this: I have never seen The Goonies. I’m not sure how this one got past me, since it was released right after I graduated from high school. I have friends who think this is one of the greatest movies of all time. This one might be one of the first ones we need to watch.
  • Groundhog Day-So this movie is not from my teen years or even college years, but it is one of those movies everyone needs to see once, in my opinion. Bill Murray (again!) stars as a weatherman who is reporting on Groundhog Day from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, but he keeps living the same day over and over. He hates the town and the people who live there, but wakes up there repeatedly. After reliving the day many times, he finds a way to make it work for him as he seeks a relationship with Andie McDowell’s character and ends up falling in love with the town in the process.
  • Imitation of Life-Based on a novel by Fannie Hurst (one of my favorite books, by the way) that was a bestseller in 1933. Mrs. Hurst was a celebrity in the first half of the 20th century as a bestselling female author and activist. The film was released in 1959 and stars Lana Turner. It doesn’t cover all the intricacies of the book, but the story is good, nonetheless. It’s a story of the difficulties of motherhood, living a lie, the harsh realities of life, and friendship.
  • Jaws-I saw this film shortly after my 8th birthday. My parents dropped off me and my 6-yr-old brother at the theatre (Eastern Shore Cinema in Daphne, Alabama) on a Saturday for our weekly double feature…which meant four hours of free date time for them. So yes, we saw Jaws unaccompanied, because back in the 1970s, parents didn’t hover over every move their kids made. And my mother hovered more than a lot of moms, but the movie theater was our babysitter. I’m sure my daughter will think the special effects of this one are funny, but this movie is a classic. She has to see it. Lots of life references come from this move, like, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
  • Karate Kid-Wax on, wax off. Another classic, she simply needs to see this David and Goliath film. There are so many great things about it: love, mentorship, discipline…
  • Mean Girls-Another one I’m embarrassed to admit I have not seen. My daughter has seen it and simply cannot believe this one got past me. She has proposed we watch it together. Deal!
  • Moonstruck-This is one of my favorite films of all time. So many great lines came out of this film. The characters are well-defined, and the plot has twists and turns everywhere. Cher, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, and Nic Cage are all great in this movie. “Do you love him, Loretta?” “Yes, Ma, I love him awful.” “Oh God, that’s too bad.”
  • Porky’s-Not exactly a classic, but every teenager in the 1980s saw the original Porky’s movie and the sequels. We can all name the characters: Meat, Peewee, Mrs Ballbricker, Honeywell, Cherry Forever…the list goes on and on. It’s raunchy. It’s stupid. But teenagers found it hilarious in the 1980s. The original was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1982 behind ET, Tootsie, An Officer and a Gentleman, Rocky III…and ahead of Star Trek II, 48 Hrs, Poltergeist, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! All those movies were great, but Porky’s hung in there! (And even though I’m not mentioning any of those movies in my list, they could all be added at any time!)\
  • Pretty in Pink– iconic 80s teen film. My daughter has seen it, but we might need to see it one more time before she goes to college.
  • Private Benjamin-Goldie Hawn stars as a spoiled widow who joins the US Army. Eileen Brennan is her wicked drill sergeant who fully expects her to fail, but of course, she beats the odds. It’s a movie about female empowerment. Near the top of the list.
  • Rear Window-Obviously, not a 1980s teenage movie, but a Hitchcock film that’s thought-provoking. Also, The Birds, another Hitchcock. Oooh…and Vertigo! Maybe we should just do a Hitchcock home film festival.
  • Risky Business-I mentioned this one already, but it’s just so good!
  • Say Anything and Some Kind of Wonderful-two great 80s movies about teenage love. Must see.
  • Sixteen Candles-a personal fave, even though this film could never be made today.
  • Smokey and the Bandit-It’s silly. It’s politically incorrect. But it’s a young Burt Reynolds looking like a mustachioed porn star in his black Pontiac Trans Am. Sally Field is adorable. Jerry Reed is funny. And who can forget the late, great Jackie Gleason?! “let me have a Diablo Sandwich, a Dr Pepper, and make it fast! I’m in a xxxxxxx hurry!” Must see. (This one will be on the big screen at my local theater in May!)
  • St Elmo’s Fire-New college graduates who are friends face the world. The Brat Pack.
  • Top Gun-80s, Tom Cruise, fighter jets, motorcycle, love, bar scene, volleyball scene. If you know, you know.
  • The Way We Were-This one was released in 1973. Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. This film follows Streisand’s character, Katie, as she changes from activist to conventional wife back to activist…through her relationship with Hubble Gardner, a man for whom life is easy. One of my all-time faves.
  • There’s Something About Mary-a fun cast and hilariously immature plot line make this movie one of my favorites. It’s just stupid humor that you can’t unsee. And for the rest of my life, every time I hear Build Me Up, Buttercup, I will think of this movie.

I’m sure I have forgotten some of my favorites. Please feel free to submit your own recommendations. Of course, there is no way we will be able to watch all these before she leaves for college, but we can watch some of them!

Am I the Only One?

Am I the only one?

A friend who also has a daughter who is a senior in high school posted earlier on Facebook that she is sad she isn’t signing a re-enrollment contract for her daughter at our private school. Several other moms chimed in that they are sad too.

But I didn’t.

Am I the only mom who is excited (and not sad at all) about her child’s high school graduation?

I am sure I will be sad later. I will most certainly miss our daughter, our only child. Our house will be really quiet without her comings and goings. I won’t get to watch late night movies or TV shows with her in her room, after she comes home from wherever she has been with friends. Yes, I will definitely miss her. My heart will break a little when I drop her off at college.

However, I’m not feeling that sadness right now.

What I’m feeling right now is excitement, hope, and happiness. To be frank, it borders on sheer elation, joy, glee, euphoria…call it what you will…it’s not sadness.

I’m excited for her to get to college and hopefully, have a great four-year experience she will remember for the rest of her life. I’m excited for her to make lifelong friends from lots of different places like I did. I’m excited for her to experience college sports from a student point of view. I’m excited for her to figure out what she wants to major in. Yes, her experience, 37 years after my own, will be different than mine, but some things will be similar. She’ll be attending my alma mater! Some of the same restaurants and bars are there. Lots of the same buildings are there. And the kids of some of my college friends are there! I’m excited for her to meet them or accidentally discover that I was friends with a new friend’s mom or dad. There is so much that lies ahead for her. Sure, we have to get everything moved into her dorm, but she will remember move-in day for the rest of her life! There is so much emotion tied to it that it gets locked into long-term memory. And she gets to move into a brand new dorm! She will be the first person to live in the room…with her roommate, of course.

I’m also excited for me and my husband! We won’t plan our lives completely by the school calendar anymore. Want to travel for a couple of weeks in October? We can do that! We won’t even have to check the calendar to see what days our daughter has off! We can go out to a late dinner on a weeknight, if we want, without worrying about getting our daughter up early for school the next morning. We’ll also have an excuse to go to more of my alma mater’s football games…our daughter will be there!

Hope is another emotion I am feeling. I’m hopeful about our daughter’s future. I’m hopeful she will take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of her at the university. I’m hopeful she will experience new things and travel to new places with new friends. So…much…hope!

And I’m feeling happiness. I love the school where she has been since transitional kindergarten. It’s a great independent school in Charlotte. We have made lots of great friends there. But it’s time. I’ll be happy to see it in my rearview mirror, because that means we are onward and upward…progress. To be honest, my daughter and I both have what’s known as “senioritis.” We both feel ready to move past senior year and start the next chapter, and I think that’s a good thing. We won’t end the school year wanting more. I’m happy to know we are closing this chapter soon. We will still see our friends…just not in a school setting.

So yes, this second semester of our daughter’s senior year is an emotional time. I just seem to be feeling different emotions than a lot of other mothers I know. I’m not sad. I’m not depressed. I’m sure I’ll experience some sadness later, but right now, I’m excited about the future…for me and for our daughter!

Am I the only one?

Not One Prairie Dress

Not one prairie dress.

Last week, our teenage daughter had her final high school Homecoming dance. When she was a freshman, it was quite the ordeal. All the girls in her grade were so excited to finally be attending a high school dance, and the boys were on the deal. They started asking early, and the girls started shopping early.

Oh, it was quite the ordeal. There is nothing like dress shopping with a 14-year-old girl. We ended up purchasing lot of dresses and returning most of them. We kept three. We had one altered…the one she really wanted to wear. I don’t even remember what it looked like, because on the day of the dance, she decided to wear a different one. The one she opted to wear was a dress I had purchased on a whim. She didn’t like it on the hanger, but apparently, when she put it on the night of the dance, she loved it. The problem? She was getting dressed with her friends at a friend’s house, and the dress had not been altered to fit. Her friend’s mother ended up pinning the dress to fit her. I think I still owe that mom for that. It was a cute, light blue, tiered dress…age appropriate and not just like everyone else’s.

Her sophomore year, they had a Homecoming dance, and I did not approve the dress she picked. I’ve never been one for gratuitous cutouts in dresses, and the one she picked without my input had cutouts at the waist. No offense to the folks who love cutouts in dresses. I just don’t. But her sophomore year, she wore a fitted red dress with cutouts. Usually I think cutouts look cheap, but I have to admit she did not look cheap in the dress. I was looking at it with a mother’s eye, and it passed the test. It fit her perfectly, and I thought she looked really pretty.

Her junior year…no Homecoming…thanks, COVID.

And this year, her senior year, I had absolutely no input. She works at a boutique in town, so she does all her own shopping. About two weeks before the dance, she said to me, “I’m going to wear a leather dress.” Ugh. That did not sound appealing to me, but I didn’t argue with her, because some battles just aren’t worth it. When she came home with the dress, she called me upstairs to zip it up, and I was shocked! I loved it! It fit her like a glove, and even though a leather dress sounds like she should be carrying a whip, it didn’t look that way at all. She didn’t look like a dominatrix. It was absolutely appropriate. I should have known it would be tasteful. It was a chocolatey brown “pleather” dress with ruching in front and thin straps. And I thought she looked beautiful.

In fact, there were lots of fitted dresses in her Homecoming dinner group. Remember the Little House on the Prairie dress trend from last year? I wrote about it here. It was a trend that drove me crazy. Why was everyone dressing like Laura Ingalls and Nellie Oleson?!? It was not a good look then, and it will never be a good look. Unless you’re wearing those dresses for religious reasons, you should bypass that “style.” I wore it in the 80s, and I have lived to regret it. There wasn’t one person who looked like she had purchased her dress in the Oleson’s Mercantile store. There wasn’t one girl who looked like she had stepped out of a Holly Hobbie book or DVD. Remember Holly Hobbie? Not a good look for the modern girl.

I’m certainly not saying it’s a good thing they didn’t have Homecoming my daughter’s junior year, but I’m glad I didn’t have to see them in those awful prairie dresses for a school dance. Maybe they wouldn’t have worn them. Maybe they would have ignored that style. I feel sure my own daughter would not have worn a prairie dress, since she turns her nose up at them every time she sees them, but would other girls have worn them? The world may never know.

I’m just glad I didn’t see any this year…not one prairie dress.

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights…Not an original title, obviously. Chances are, you know I’m talking about high school football. More specifically…high school football in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not exactly what I consider a hot bed of football. North Carolina is more of a basketball state. But we sure had fun at a high school football game in North Carolina last night.

It was the first home football game of the season. Growing up in Alabama, I always loved the first home football game of the season at our high school. Total excitement and anticipation. I vividly remember the big win our high school team had in the first game of my senior year. I was a cheerleader, and we had cheered through two miserable seasons in the previous years, but that first big win of my senior year was foreshadowing of a great season to come. Our team ended up playing well into the playoffs…up to the semifinals…before losing to the eventual state champion team. Last night, it felt much the same at our daughter’s high school. After last year, when fans were not allowed to attend the few games we had, this was a welcome change! It was a fun excuse to get out on a lovely Friday night and celebrate something together…namely, a big win for our high school team. I like to think we were celebrating the win, but we were also celebrating the opportunity to be together. Whole families came out to the stadium for some good, old-fashioned fun on a Friday night, and it was electric!

Our daughter is a senior at an independent school. She started school there when she was four years old, entering at transitional kindergarten, a kindergarten readiness program. She has grown up there. And this year, her senior year, is the first year she has been a cheerleader for football. She played varsity field hockey for the first three years of high school, but opted for a change this fall. She has been a basketball cheerleader for two years, so she wanted to try cheering for football…this is her first experience cheering for football…and she is loving every minute of it. The team started the season with two away games, so the girls were looking forward to the opportunity to lead a home crowd in cheering for the team. And last night, they did a great job.

The football team did a great job, ultimately winning by a large margin. I’d be lying if I said I knew the exact score, but I know we won by a lot. There were some exciting plays for both teams…long passes, big tackles, turnovers, big runs. I love football in almost any form, and our team did not disappoint. The concession stand crew was working hard, just like they used to do pre-COVID. The pep band showed up in full force. The dance team put on a heck of a halftime show. And we all cheered our team on to victory. The elementary-aged students were happy to be together in the stands. The families were thrilled to catch up. It was exciting to hear the familiar voice of our announcer on the loudspeaker. It was awesome to feel “normal” again.

Many of the students in the crowd and on the field have grown up with our daughter. I was talking with her transitional kindergarten teacher in the stands, and we reminisced about the time…way back in 2009…when a little boy in the class broke his shoulder blade at the end-of-year class party. At 6 feet tall, that little boy is no longer a little boy. The broken shoulder blade healed quickly, and he is a now a handsome young man on the varsity football team. Many of those TK students are still at the school…graduating with my daughter in May. The two other senior cheerleaders started in kindergarten with our daughter in 2009. Almost all the senior football players have been at the school since kindergarten…all except one, a young man who entered the school in ninth grade and quickly endeared himself to his classmates. He’s a superstar on the field and in the classroom.

As it turns out, Friday Night Lights can be fun no matter where you are…Alabama, Western Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, or even North Carolina. FNL looks much the same in Charlotte in 2021 as it did in Alabama in 1985. I’m just glad it doesn’t look like it looked in 2020!

Retreat

Retreat. It’s a word I never want to hear unless someone is telling me to run from a bear, as in, “Retreat! There’s a bear!” Chances are I will never hear that, since I never put myself in a place where bears are…but that’s a story for another day. Today, I’m talking about retreats.

Years ago, a friend invited me to join her on a “ladies retreat.” I’m sure I asked her to repeat the question, because I couldn’t have heard her correctly. I was thinking, “Clearly, she doesn’t know me well. If she did, she would know I think the very idea of a ladies retreat sounds like Hell on earth.” No joke. Very little sounds worse to me than women going up to some little camp in the mountains, sitting around talking about their feelings. Yuck. I don’t mean to be offensive. I know some people love that stuff. I’m just not one of them. The last thing I want to do is be holed up somewhere with a random bunch of women. Don’t get me wrong. I love my friends, but I’m picky about how I spend my time. My time is valuable, y’all, so I’m choosy about who I spend it with. The older I get, the pickier I am. I barely have enough time to spend with my real friends. I’d much rather pick some fun stuff to do with them than go on some “ladies retreat.” It’s just who I am. No excuses.

For years, I’ve believed “retreat” is just another word for “mandatory, forced fun,” which doesn’t sound like fun at all. I hear about people going on work retreats, church retreats (***those were actually fun when I was a teenager and they were co-ed***), ladies retreats, and my personal favorite…a retreat for students at school. Nothing says “mandatory, forced fun” more than a school retreat.

Our daughter is starting her senior year in high school. She has endured more than a few school retreats. And when I say “endured,” I mean it. I’m not talking bad about the school. I’m just saying she has her mama’s genes…she hates the idea of “retreats,” too. We also hate the word “mandatory,” and it seems that’s always attached to a school retreat. I wish I could remember which grade was which retreat. One year, they went to a YMCA camp. Maybe 5th grade? I don’t remember, but I do remember that I volunteered to chaperone overnight, which meant I got to sleep on one of those horrible plastic-wrapped, thin, noisy camp mattresses in a cabin with a bunch of girls. It was not fun. It was fun spending time with the girls, but the sleep quality was nothing short of miserable. One girl in the bunk next to mine tossed and turned and tossed and turned, and because of the awful plastic mattress, I heard every toss and every turn. Eventually, I whispered, “Is there a problem?” No answer, but the tossing and turning stopped. Soon thereafter, I fell asleep, but every time someone moved, I awoke in a panic, because I thought someone was falling out of a top bunk. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. But one night was enough for me. It was enough for my daughter too. The next morning, she begged me to take her home with me, but she had to stay for more activities. Poor kid. I felt terrible for her, because I wouldn’t have wanted to be there either.

Because I went on that trip, I never had to do another one. I was off the hook, but our daughter wasn’t. She’s like me…she loves not camping. And that’s OK! Give me a nice hotel with room service any day of the week, but please don’t ever ask me to sleep in a cabin, a tent, or an RV. We simply aren’t those people. The next year, when the “retreat” rolled around, she was begging me not to make her go. We were sitting in her bed two nights before. She was already dreading it. I was explaining that she had to go. You know…”it might be fun!” I knew she didn’t want to sleep in a cabin. And while we were talking, I noticed a nasty-looking bump/wound on her knee. When I said, “That looks like a staph infection to me! You might not have to go if it’s a staph infection,” she couldn’t believe her good luck! I circled it with a Sharpie, to see if the redness grew overnight. I’m sure she prayed for it to be a staph infection that night. The next morning, the redness had expanded outside the Sharpie circle, so I took her to the doctor, and the doctor confirmed it: staph infection. She prescribed an oral antibiotic and ordered her to stay home from the retreat. Success! Who knew she’d be so happy to have a staph infection?!?

There was another retreat the next year, and maybe the next year. I have trouble keeping up with all the mandatory, forced fun. And then today, she had her senior mandatory, forced fun…a day trip (in the rain) to a local camp, where they had a book talk about their mandatory (ugh) summer reading (for over an hour!) before having lunch (she ate Oreos) and swimming in a “lake.” I should also note here that we don’t do warm, brown water, as in lake water. On the rare occasion, I have had to get in a warm lake, but generally speaking, it’s not my thing. I don’t mind it up north, where the lakes are cold, but in the south, the brown water just feels like it’s teeming with bacteria and snakes…lots of snakes. No, thank you. (No offense to the lake lovers of the world. It’s just not my thing.) As I’ve heard before, “I’m outdoorsy in that I like having cocktails on the patio.” That’s a joke, of course; I like outdoor activities…just not in warm brown water.

Today, she rode the bus to and from the “retreat” with her classmates and tolerated the mandatory, forced fun. They rode home on a hot bus filled with seniors. I did the math. Statistically, at least a few of them must have COVID. There were 140 kids on buses. (Yes, the plural of “bus” is “buses.” “Busses” would be kisses. If you doubt me, click here.) Praying there isn’t a giant outbreak from the mandatory, forced fun.

The good news? The “retreat” is over. Thank you, Lord. And now we proceed with her final year of high school.

So, if you ever plan a “ladies retreat,” please don’t invite me. It won’t hurt my feelings.

The High School “Lasts” Have Begun

The high school “lasts” have begun.

Our daughter is finishing up her junior year in high school. As any mother knows, life with kids is full of “firsts” and “lasts.” It starts with first smiles, first teeth, first words and goes on to first time riding a bike, first day of school…on and on.

At some point, though, we start having “lasts.” Often, we don’t even realize we have had a “last” till well after the fact. There’s the last time you had to actually feed your child, the last time you tied their shoes, the last time you helped them bathe, the last time you brushed their hair, the last time you read a book aloud together…the list continues to grow. A big one for me is the last time I actually carried my child. Fortunately, when our daughter was five or six, I had a friend who told me she always picked up or carried her daughter if she asked (same age), because one day she wouldn’t want her to. Based on that, I carried our daughter or picked her up any time she asked. Eleven years old and she wants me to carry her on my back through an amusement park? You bet! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize when the last time I carried her was actually the last time, but because I had always gladly carried her, it wasn’t painful when I realized she didn’t ask anymore. Honestly, if she asked me to carry her on my back today, I would…and she is 17.

My friend, Linda, told me years ago, when her son was in high school, that she totally didn’t realize it was the last time she would drive her son to school when it was the last time. He got his driver’s license one day, and he was off to school alone the next morning. She said to her husband, “But wait! I didn’t realize that was the last time I would drive him!” It really bothered her. She is long past it now. Her son is in graduate school in Scotland, so she has had lots of “lasts” that were bigger than that.

The “lasts” add up over time: the last day of preschool/elementary/middle school, the last time I actually drove her to school, the last time I actually had to drive her anywhere, and more.

I’m thinking about this, because today, I paid tuition to her independent school for the last time…for her senior year of high school, which will start in August. I’ve been paying yearly tuition since 2008. As soon as I hit the “send” button on the bank draft, I sat back and thought, “that was the last time I’ll do that.” Sure, I will be paying tuition of a different kind, for college, soon enough, but I just paid tuition for my daughter’s 14th year at her present school (she started with transitional kindergarten before kindergarten), and it felt weird to know I will never do it again.

My husband and I talk about “lasts” often, since our daughter is entering her senior year in fall and will be off to college before we can blink. There will be last sports games, last volunteer opportunities at school, and there will even be some people we will likely never encounter again after she graduates.

We sit on the patio with cocktails some evenings talking about how different it’s going to be when she departs for college in just over a year. And we try to enjoy the moments we have with her. Often when she gets home from sporting events or hanging with friends, she will come sit outside with us…it’s valuable, meaningful time for us…and one day there will be a “last” for that too. I hope we will recognize the “lasts” as they occur, like I recognized the last tuition payment today, but I’m sure there will be some that just pass right by without my realizing it. I won’t be able to get a photo to save as a memory of every “last,” but I hope I will remember to get some. I’ll try to get a photo of her last first day of school at her present school. I’ll try to get photos of her last sports games, last time she drives to high school…anything I can think of.

She’ll be flying the coop before we know it. While we are excited for what lies ahead of her (and us), we want to make sure we remember these days. We want her to get out and spread her wings wherever she chooses to go to college (tuition payments to a different place) and live her best life. We just want to enjoy every moment she shares with us.

Now that I’m feeling sentimental, I wonder if I should get a screenshot of that last tuition payment?!

I’m Proud of You, Mom

“I’m proud of you, Mom.”

Recently, I finished a big volunteer project…you know, I was working for free for weeks on end (months) when I could have been eating bonbons in the pool. It was a big project, no doubt…an athletic awards show for my teenage daughter’s school. I’m not complaining, of course. I worked with some awesome people and made some new friends. It was definitely a group effort, as lots of other parents and school staff pitched in. There were a few times I’m sure I was quite snippy with my family, because of the stress I was feeling, but we made it through!

Our daughter is finishing up her junior year at her much-loved independent school in Charlotte. She started there in transitional kindergarten, and now, we are entering the summer before her senior year. It’s hard to believe she’s going to be a senior. My husband and I are just enjoying the ride. We have loved every age as our daughter has grown. It hasn’t always been easy, but big picture…life with her is definitely an adventure. She is an only child, so she doesn’t get away with much. We don’t have any other kids distracting us. And I’ve always warned her that I’m likely to have done anything she tries to get away with. I’m likely to realize when she’s up to something. As I’ve always said, “You can’t bull***t a bullsh***er.” Forgive the language, but nothing seems to get the point across as well as that does. Has she always been perfect? No, but neither have we. All the little mistakes we make along the way (as teens and as parents) are part of who we are. I have a great relationship with my daughter. We talk. We hang out. We respect each other. Of course, there are times I embarrass her, but isn’t that just part of it?

Over the years, I have embarrassed her at least a million times. I’ve even written a piece before about the countless ways I embarrassed her on a trip to Boston a few years ago. I’ve grown accustomed to her sighs and groans when I do something that embarrasses her. Greet people we encounter? She’s embarrassed. Ask too many questions? She’s embarrassed. Wear something she doesn’t like? She’s embarrassed. Seriously, it’s not difficult to embarrass a teenager.

Last Tuesday, my big athletic awards show project finally ended. In normal times, the show is live in the auditorium at the school. Seniors and state championship teams are honored. Parents are in attendance. All those folks are shoved into the auditorium, shoulder-to-shoulder, but this year, we couldn’t do it that way. In fact, we had to come up with a “hybrid” plan to present to the administration. In the end, we pre-recorded the show and had a “screening party” for the seniors on the football field…with a gigantic, inflatable screen…drive-in movie style. Only seniors, coaches, and the parents of seniors were allowed to attend. Sadly, I think some people were upset they couldn’t go, but we couldn’t do more than was approved by the administrative team. However, anyone else who wanted to watch could simultaneously watch the “broadcast” from home online.

I was at the field for hours the day of the show…getting things ready beforehand, staying for the show, making sure everyone picked up their awards and got photos afterward, cleaning up. l didn’t even look at my phone for hours, but at 11pm, when I got into my car, I checked my phone and saw a text message from my daughter. Apparently, she had been watching the show at home. The text message, which she had sent at 9:38pm, said, “This is really good. I’m proud of you, Mom.” I was exhausted, but that message made it all worth it. Tears welled up in my eyes as I started the car, and before I drove away, I texted her back, “Sweetest message ever. Thank you.”

Who knows when I’ll hear/read those words from her again, but if I never hear/read them again, I will always remember that moment when I saw her text. I had complained and fretted about the preparation for that show, but those words in that text from my teenage daughter made it all worth it.

Be a Good Memory

Be a good memory.

Our daughter had her junior prom last weekend. Yep, even in the pandemic, her school found a way to pull it off. It was outside on one of the athletic fields, but in the pictures, it appears to have been beautiful. Lights were strung tent-style across the field, and a live band played in an area overlooking the field. The prom-goers all wore sneakers, and from what I’ve heard, everyone was pretty happy to be together at a real event.

If you have a teenager, you know they do things a little differently than we did back in the 1980s. Now, the girls gather at one place to get dressed together. And then they gather with their dates at a photo location…sometimes a park, country club, or someone’s really beautiful yard. Parents gather to take photos, and then the prom-goers go to dinner somewhere before going to the actual prom. In truth, the actual prom seems to be the least exciting part of the evening. That’s not a slam on our school. I hear it from kids everywhere…all over the country. They say the prom is the reason for getting dressed up, but the fun part is the before and after.

Because, yes…there’s an “after.”

This year, some of our daughter’s friends and their dates came to our house after prom to hang out in the game room together. When I told my husband we would be hosting, he was not a happy man. He is a man who likes his routine, and that includes going to bed before midnight. He actually said to me, “They’ll be gone before midnight, right?” Ummm…no. I had to explain to him that, no, on prom night, all bets are off on curfew. Again, he was not happy. Clearly, he doesn’t remember his youth as well as I remember mine. I suggested he go to a hotel, and he looked at me like I had fourteen eyes.

Lucky for me, later that day, we saw one of our neighbors, a mother of four. She has three grown children (all out of college, and two of them are married) and a fourteen-yr-old. She has seen it all. And for years, teenagers were in and out of her house at all hours of the day and night. My husband was standing there when I told the neighbor about his apprehension about the party, and she had the perfect response. She said, “We used to host those parties when our kids were in high school, and now I love it when I’m at weddings and baby showers for their friends, and the friends say to me, ‘My best memories from high school were at your house.'” I turned to my husband and said, “See? We want to be a good memory for these kids!”

What could he say to that? It was at that moment that he agreed it was OK to have them over after prom. After some prodding by me, he also decided it would be a good idea for him to check into a local hotel for the night. If he had stayed home, he would have been “in my ear” the whole time, trying to get me to go check on the kids every half hour. I was not going to do that…no way, no how.

Prom night came, and our daughter went over to a friend’s house to get dressed with friends. Later, I rode to the friend’s house with another mom to take pictures of all the prom couples. After getting some pics, we all left, and they had dinner before going to prom. By the time they arrived at our house after prom at around 11pm, I had pizzas, cheesy bread sticks, and desserts waiting for them in the game room. All went well. I cooked breakfast for them in the wee hours of the morning, and I finally got to bed around 4am…but I was happy.

The next day, after everyone left, my husband returned home from the hotel, asking how the night had gone. I told him all about it, and I thanked him for letting the kids come to our house. I thanked him for letting our house “be a good memory” for these kids.

I hope that one day, when I’m attending the weddings and baby showers of these same kids, they will turn to me and say, “Some of our best memories from high school are from your house.”