It’s Prom Eve in our household and the nails and the hair are getting a dress rehearsal. About a month ago, we had a colorful and clever Prom-posal and now we are ready for the big day tomorrow, with photos planned, accessories designated and military precise timing.
Quite different than my prom experience from 1985.
First of all there was no such thing as Prom-posals. I’m pretty sure my guy asked me and I said yes. As simple as that with all the production value of asking and being told what time it is. I was excited to go to prom as a Junior and my date was a great guy I had known since middle school. We attended FCA devotionals each morning before class and had been dating exclusively for a few months. He was also the first male valedictorian of our high school. Can I pick them or what?
My parents were quite fond of him as well. My mom and he carried on long conversations about the plot twists on Knots Landing, much to her delight. My dad wanted his own niche and so invited us both to go for a sail out on the lake a week or so before prom.
My dad was so very proud of his 14’ sailboat—a splurge which had become a passion for a hard-working educator. We lived in “the city between the lakes” and he took full advantage launching out on that sailboat with the yellow & brown sails as often as he possibly could. When he could talk my Mom and sister and me into it, we would join him, reluctantly. He worked hard to use the correct sailing lingo and teach us exactly how to maneuver the ropes and sails. “It’s really too much to handle for just one person—it takes a whole crew.” I’m sure this was meant to be a life lesson, but in my teen sass, I thought to myself (and probably said), “I thought the whole idea of relaxing was to do LESS work.” These were the moments I’m sure he regretted making me join him for Required Family Bonding.
When my Mom agreed to go out with him, she had a million other things that were calling to her but being the good wife, she put them aside and joined him in his joy, even knowing that he would purposely keel the boat as far on its side as it could go, and amuse himself by geting her seat wet. He took great delight in this sailor’s move—it depended not on who was sitting on THAT side. Like a motorcyclist performing a wheelie, he got some sort of rush from the control he accomplished and the screams that ensued. He would assure us, “It may feel like it will tip over, but it won’t. The centerboard keeps it balanced. Besides, if we were to tip over, all we would have to do is stand on the centerboard and it will quickly right itself. “
Which brings me back to the outing I took with my prom date and my Dad in early Spring. It was still chilly in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, and the day was less than ideal, but between our busy schedules, this was our day to set sail. He insisted. My date was such a good sport, but a little apprehensive, as he hadn’t been on a sailboat before. Obviously he is a smart and trusting guy. One of those qualities was about to increase, and the other one, well…let’s just say we didn’t date too much longer.
Out on the boat, I slipped into Good Daughter Mode and became the Experienced First Mate Dad had always hoped for. I wanted to present myself as helpful, knowledgeable, and a dedicated worker. I’m sure I echoed my dad’s confidence and excitement. Dad was thrilled to have another man on board, and I was eager to impress my boyfriend. As we left shore, the clouds began to roll in and I detected a sprinkle. There was so much set up required as we prepared the sails, the ropes, the battons, the hatches, the blessed centerboard, etc. that we had to make this outing worth all the prep it took us to get on the water. We weren’t going to let a few sprinkles deter us, so we didn’t turn back right away. The sky grew darker as we continued to tack the vessel into the horizon towards the middle of the lake. Once the sprinkles turned into a downpour and the Boy at the Top of his Class insisted that maybe we should go back to shore, we saw the first lightning strike. Uncool. We are surrounded by water, on a 14’ piece of fiberglass with a large metal pole rising to the heavens. The matching ribbons I had tied as wind indicators were blowing straight back behind us as my dad shouted ‘PREPARE TO TURN ABOUT.’ This was one command we had neglected to share with our intellectual superior and as the boom swung quickly across the seating area, the boat keeled unintentionally this time and we each went tumbling into the lake. My dreams of the perfect prom were quickly eclipsed by the will to survive. My boyfriend probably regretted several decisions as he watched his glasses fly off his face and sink just out of his reach. We all grabbed for the boat, tugging our life jackets tighter around our waists. As snacks and paddles and our camera and shoes and other flotsam and jetsam drifted away and sank around us, I knew what needed to happen. My dad was already on it. He made his way to the centerboard which had switched places with the mast and was pointing its rounded wooden blade toward the darkening sky. He wrestled with it, putting his whole body weight on it, and all but broke it in half trying to “stand” on it and “pop” the boat back upright. My mind was busy conjuring the pencil sketched image of our freezing, wet faces of horror as our arms gripped the slimy bottom of the boat, certain that we would be the featured story in the July 1985 Reader’s Digest article “Drama in Real Life.” Then I got incensed remembering the training I had received. “Stand on the centerboard,” he said. “It’ll pop right up,” he said. “I just want to get to know your boyfriend better,” he said. I was cold, no longer cute and helpful, and beyond mortified.
A neighbor watching our day unfold thankfully rescued us in their pontoon boat (which doesn’t take NEARLY as much effort to launch, I might add). We had to leave the beloved vessel upside down in the middle of the lake. “Water’s pretty low. How tall is that mast? It’s probably stuck in the mud,” our helpful rescuer stated wisely. That was exactly what happened.
Miraculously, my date was still willing to take me to prom that year. We thawed out, cleaned up, and had a great time. Looking at our picture, I wonder if these were his back up glasses.
Do you have an exciting prom story?