Moments Matter

Prom at 41

This precious sign hangs in my daughter's room.

Editor’s Note: With prom season concluding, I thought it only fitting to share my own prom experience – at the young age of 41. Remember, it’s never too late to make your dreams come true.

The tall awkward, gangly boy approached me slowly, his head hanging low, while nervously scraping his shoes back and forth on the floor with his hands deep in his pockets. I sat at my desk, while the cool jock boys behind him chanted his name – as if rooting for the star player during a football game. He stuttered a few times and finally asked with a crackling voice, “Would you go to prom with me?” I gently and politely declined the offer. This would be the first and last time anyone asked me to a dance.

It was my senior year of high school in Mr. Bradford’s English class. Looking back now, I feel bad I turned him down. But more than that, what memories did I miss by not accepting this one and only invitation? No corsages or long chiffon dresses with the 80s big hair bangs doused with a full can of Aqua Net – nope not for me.

Modern Love…Ugh
This whole notion of proms and puppy love came flooding back to me recently when my daughter revealed to my husband and I that a boy in her class had a crush on her. While sitting in the backseat of the car, she explained that her class had gone to the library, and that she had accidently fell while carrying a box of books. She said that no one came to help her except one boy in her class. He raced across the room, helped her up, and then he bent down to pick up the books. With a big smile she then told us, “I think that he has a crush on me.” In the front seat, my husband and I exchanged a smile and a knowingly glance. I thought to myself – this is the beginning of the whole “boy-girl” thing!

I know she’ll soon be approaching those miserable heartaches and breakups. Today break ups usually consist of someone texting or posting it on Facebook (ugh). For me, those years of crushes and puppy love were probably one of the worst aspects of growing up. You are still learning who you are while trying to form some type of romantic “relationship” with another person – nonetheless with someone of the opposite sex.

Fairy Tales Do Come True
I remember even as a little girl my mom would read me the story of Cinderella. I would dreamily stare at Prince Charming with his broad, sparkling white teeth, perfectly sculpted dark brown hair and strapping shoulders. I would tell my mom, “I’m going to marry him someday.” My mom would shake her head reassuringly, “Of course you are, honey.”

And now when I read the fairytale to my own young children, I am filled with a mix of emotions. I don’t want them to assume that with a wave of a magic wand – presto you and Prince Charming are hitched and living in a big castle. On the other hand, I want them to have dreams. Dreams are important.

Of course, my real prince didn’t actually come until years later, but I am so relieved that it worked out that way. During all four years of high school I missed each and every prom. I would see my friends prom photos and envision them dancing under a disco ball, laughing and enjoying the night.

During high school, I had a few unmemorable boyfriends, but they always seemed to break up with me before prom. As I graduated from high school and entered junior college, I had a part-time job at a local pizza restaurant. I distinctly recall my manager hiring a new cook, who had a striking resemblance to Prince Charming. No kidding. I fell in love. I finally transferred to a four-year college in another part of the state, and we heartbreakingly ended the relationship.

While away at college, I learned more about “who” I was and “what” I wanted. I matured and had the opportunity to experience life. I also followed my dream to pursue a college degree. Following graduation, I reunited with my prince, and we later married. We now have two beautiful daughters together.

Just recently, I attended a formal event with my husband. As we arrived, there was a long line of attendees dressed in tuxedos and gowns who were all having their photos taken with their dates. It struck me – at the age of 41 – I was finally at the prom with my prince. That night we danced the night away under the lights (no disco ball) of the dance floor. I guess it’s never too late to make your dreams come true – even if it is 20 years later.

So now as my daughter tells of a school-age crush, I hope that she takes the time to understand who she is and what she wants and lives life – never missing the opportunity to go to a prom, or follow her dreams – and perhaps someday she too can meet her own prince.

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Motherhood: Rituals of Love

My mom holding my little sister, me (far right) and our little red station wagon.

 

I was performing my usual morning ritual with my two young daughters, packing last-minute lunches and snacks, brushing hair, wiping the dinner off their faces from the night before and safely strapping them in their car seats. While pulling out of the driveway of our quaint suburban cottage-home, my girls’ favorite morning song by children’s entertainer and songwriter Laurie Berkner blared through the speakers with the resounding chant: “We are the Dinosaurs marching, marching…”

As I rounded the corner during our five-minute drive to school all the details of the day were running through by mind: Did Sarah pack her homework? Does Samantha have her water bottle? Did Sarah put on fresh underwear? Oh, the things we think of as moms. I was also tired – tired of always thinking of “them.” However, I wouldn’t change being a mom for the world. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. The world would seem so empty without the daily hugs, smiles and “I love you’s.”

While feeling the exhaustion set in, the puffy eyes, the lack of a shower and make up, and the overwhelming craving for a strong cup of Starbucks coffee, tears began to weal in my eyes blurring the road ahead.

Love in All Shapes and Lifestyles
I flashed back to my own childhood with my mom rushing me to school in the morning, wiping the dirt off my face with her fingertips while our little red 1976 station wagon hit the same speed bumps causing my head to tap the roof of the car (those were the days when seatbelts were optional).

Being late to school and any other function was par for the course in our 1970s communal home. We had just moved into the “city” from our commune farm located on the outskirts of town, so adjusting to a somewhat sterile, structured academic setting was a shock. When my average school attire consisted of flared bellbottoms, wood-beaded jewelry and afro-styled hair fitting in was impossible in an institution filled with kids of parents that were doctors, lawyers and university professors. My mother, a gentle, kind woman always encouraged me to be myself and show love to others – even if you were teased for being different.

While adjusting to mainstream society, my father could no longer afford to take odd jobs, which forced him to work for “the man” at a government position. My mom, a hairdresser by trade, didn’t make much money and we often times would come home with a single gallon of milk and loaf of bread, or we would just make do with what we had in the kitchen cabinets. Through it all I never once felt deprived, but blessed.

A Letter of Love
So at that moment with my own children in the car, I realized the sacrifices my mother made. Moreover, I understood the meaning of true, unconditional love. Soon after, I called my mom who lives several hours away and I struggled to find the words that would best capture my appreciation for the sacrifices she made for me on a daily, if not hourly basis. Months later, with my family and three sisters crowded around the Christmas tree, I gave my mom a letter of appreciation, which read:

Dear Mom,
As I am now a parent I have a better understanding of the sacrifices that you made as a mom. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for being my Mom…for all the things I couldn’t or didn’t thank you for…

  1. For staying up at night to feed me or caring for me when I was sick
  2. For rocking me to sleep by the wood-burning stove in our kitchen
  3. For all your patience and kindness you showed me – even when I acted up
  4. For all the lunches, dinners, snacks and cold cereal bowls you prepared and served me every day
  5. For taking me clothes-and- shoe-shopping and sacrificing even when you wanted or needed something
  6. For caring for me when you were sick and exhausted
  7. For never judging me, and always loving me
  8. For always having tons of playmates (the vagrant children of your hippie friends) for me to go on adventures with – that to me were just like family
  9. For giving me my first bunny – (even though I accidently stepped on him the next day and he went to bunny heaven)
  10. For the puppy you and Dad bought me for my fifth birthday
  11. For surprising me with the “Darci” doll at Christmas (Santa left the price tag on!)
  12. For being the most loving seamstress a girl could ask for – you name it, you made it
  13. For all the love and support at every school and extracurricular function
  14. For braiding my hair like Princess Leah from “Star Wars”
  15. For persuading Dad into letting me pierce my ears (even though you numbed my ear lobes with ice cubes and then I had to walk around school with surgical thread in my ears!)
  16. For taking me to school in our great little red station wagon
  17. For encouraging me to apply for my first job, reinforcing the value of hard work and employer loyalty
  18. For helping me with my newspaper route on those rainy days
  19. 19) For showing me how to get a bargain
  20. For encouraging me to build a relationship with God
  21. For the yummy pastries after church on Sundays
  22. For dropping me off down the street from parties during high school and being understanding under any circumstances when I called you for a ride home
  23. For loving my own daughters now…

And, for every hug, kiss and hand-holding moment that you gave me since I entered the world…. I love you.
Kristal

After I gave this letter to my mother, she held back her tears. We embraced. I was relieved that I had seized the moment to thank her for being a role model of love, encouragement and sacrifice.

Acts of Love
Now on those days (and there are many of them) when I feel defeated and unappreciated after making the umpteenth lunch or snack, I reflect on my mom’s strength and love. Don’t get me wrong, my mom wasn’t perfect. However, her selfless acts of love and kindness continue to help me to not just keep going through the motions of our daily routines, but are constant reminders to cherish those precious moments with my own children. Those moments that you wish you could freeze in time.

Most recently one of those moments happened when my six-year-old daughter left an unsolicited handwritten note on my bed that read: “I love you Mom and Dad. You are the best parents ever.”

Basic parenting 101 dictates that role modeling is one of the strongest, most influential forces on our children’s behavior. In my heart of hearts, I pray that this note of love is a glimmer into her future. And perhaps someday she will appreciate the speed bumps in the road or the funny way I braided her hair or the silly love notes I slipped into her lunch box. Most importantly, I hope that she realizes that life is so much richer when you understand and appreciate the meaning of love from a mother’s eyes.

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Welcome to clearlykristal

Welcome to clearlykristal. As a wife, mom, writer and human being I hope that my storytelling enriches some aspect of your life. My goal would be that you take the time to reflect on your own slice of a childhood memory or daily challenge. I encourage you to share a story — one that has meaning to you because moments really do matter. Enjoy my premiere post “Motherhood: Rituals of Love.” This post is dedicated to my mom. I love you.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
–Mother Teresa

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