My daughter Paula sent me a text on my phone, “ help me choose a prom dress,”…It was a small victory for the mother. Here you go, I thought triumphantly: you, who were too cool to… then started typing typical grouch mother stuff, “I told you so, why did you wait till the last minute…, don’t think I can…”
Deep inside, I was excited as a prom girl myself. Touching all the buttons of the smart phone in an inappropriate way, I encrypted the text no one would ever decode, no matter the phone IQ. A quick look at the abracadabra of characters made me sure of that. I backspaced the whole thing, and tip-touched, “Where and When,” the two words already in the phone memory. “Her and Rose,” she texted back . “I’ll be there in a 30,” I keyed in. I made it in half, flying that scenic route making sure she didn’t change her mind.
The dress was right on a hanger waiting for her. It was a simple strapless unadorned. Its mysterious appeal was in the fabric that was emerald deep green with golden floral pattern shimmering like Klimt’s painting from his Irish period. It fitted her slight figure perfectly. A frill right below the knees was the only reminder of the special occasion it was to be worn to. She strutted in it like a female peacock that might morph into a mermaid without any warning. I was moved. My everyday tube-jeans-black-and-beige-paper-thin-jacket girl looked demure. Perhaps, some might see - sophisticated. It dawned on me this prom was more of a milestone for me than it was for her.
It was the fastest dress I ever bought. She hung it sideways over the back seat and I let out a sigh of relief. How easy it was, and entirely on her terms, which is how strong-will girls operate – most of the time. How happy I was to see her do things on the spur of the moment, spontaneously, despite previously declared disinterest . In the world of perceived endless opportunities for young girls, the one luxury in ever shorter supply is their genuine, unspoiled reaction to wanting something truly. Or at least more so than their mother. Everything is either premeditated, pre-calculated, or down-right uncool.
I saw her wave from behind a windshield and she went on to start her white Navajo. The car didn’t budge. She got out and pulled an armful of jumping cables. ”That’s my life,” she hummed. I flipped the switch, and the hood popped open. Deftly, she snapped the two tongs on the battery screws first of hers, and then of my car. I was impressed with her mechanical acuity. I would have consulted every man in this parking lot before risking a detonation.
But she seemed at ease in the world of greasy, under-hood auto parts randomly hooked to a source of someone else’s energy, while treating me to a pep-talk,“ Mom, do you realize that this car is my age?” I must have looked dumbstruck, because she orated right through, ”We grew up together. It was a car that all our exchange students drove, and the last one left seven years ago if you can still remember that far.” No, I didn’t remember Navajo was her peer. I would have paid more attention to her driving it. “You don’t expect me to buy you a car with this dress, do you?”
“Just think about how lucky you are,” I said. You don’t have to construct your dress from cardboard, and layer it with tiers of plastic bottles to save environment and raise awareness of a floating mountain of bio-non-degradables like the girl from Indiana, and you also have a car with integrity. The survivor of a chain of first-time foreign drivers. The car that knows all the secrets of the girls who drove it, and now slightly decrepit requires jump starting once in a while. An old pal with a story.
“And it belonged to a man…” “I know, she said… , there is a reason we call it fugitive.” “There is a reason for everything, “ I said. Then, the Navajo gave its very best and the engine started.