May 4, 2003
Where are you going, my little one, little one? Where are you going, my baby my own? Turn around and you’re two, turn around and you’re four, turn around and you’re a grown girl going out of the door.
— Malvina Reynolds, 1900-1978
Look at her there. Look at that funny face. Lynn was two when I took this picture. She’s in a fire-retardant sleeper set that served as her Halloween costume. She carried a little pumpkin bucket to collect the loot when we went trick-or-treating. I took the picture almost sixteen years ago. We don’t have the chair that she’s standing on anymore. We don’t have the pumpkin sleeper suit anymore. And we certainly don’t have that adorable three-foot wonder with the chubby legs and the bowl haircut.
This is what we have instead. Below you see Lynn as she looked last night at the festivities prior to the Susquehanna Township Junior-Senior Prom. And I must make very clear that that is not her date. That is Andrew, the son of our pastors, with whom Lynn has been friends since those pumpkin suit days. The pictures of her and her date, Will, did not turn out well for presentation on a web page, so I’ve used this one.
I have to confess that I did not fall into the giddy hoopla of anticipation of this event that Lynn did, and that I’m told other mothers did. Part of it I think was the fact that I spent a lot of my teaching years identifying with and counseling the girls who didn’t get asked or who didn’t know anyone they thought they could ask and who also didn’t have the social confidence to do the modern thing and go dateless with a group of girlfriends. A lot of them would say they didn’t really want to go anyway, that the prom represents some anachronistic rite of coming out that is no longer relevant, that its emphasis on consumerism and self-absorption should embarrass us, that . . . well, you know. Brave words, sensible philosophy. Yet the desire for the glitz and the glam, the pairing up, the dancing under a revolving sequined ball to romantic songs can be very powerful, and the inability to fulfill it very painful.
And another reason that I failed to get all fizzy about the prom, the reason that I tsk-tsked about the expense (“$25 for the bra?? It’s only half a bra. You have to glue it on!!”) was that I was very much in denial that this event is here. It’s the first in a fifteen-month-long chain of events that will culminate with her really going out the door to start college.
So I approached this event with something of a bittersweet attitude. These pictures were taken at the home of one of Lynn’s classmates whose parents had invited a number of the kids and the adults to mingle, see all of the youngsters in their finery, take pictures, reminisce. Most of the kids drive themselves now, so we don’t have to pick them up at school or athletic practice anymore, we don’t have to drive them to each other’s houses or carpool to the special events. So I don’t see very often these people whose company I so enjoyed when the kids were little.
As it happens, there are lots of civic and other political issues in the air this season. A number of doctors this week staged a “peaceful protest” against prohibitive malpractice insurance premiums by closing their offices as a symbol of what medical care can come to in Pennsylvania if something isn’t done to change the litigation system and reduce the jury awards that they say are driving them out of the state to practice. The trial lawyers are staging their own protests through billboards and newspaper ads that identify (and denigrate) legislators who want to cap pain-and-suffering awards, a measure they say will further hurt those who have been injured.
A township builder wants a zoning change to build offices that look like houses on a small tract along Route 39, a former two-lane country road that has become a major east-west thoroughfare dotted with commercial development. He says no one wants to build new houses and actually live on this congested road anymore. The people who have lived along the road for a long time support him, because they can’t profitably sell their homes as residences but might be able to sell them as office sites. The people whose homes abut the back of the proposed office sites don’t want to see parking areas and dumpsters out their kitchen windows.
A lot of these people were at Beth’s house last night. But we weren’t doctors and lawyers, developers and disgruntled residents. We were just parents, beaming with pride at our beautiful children.
Where are you going, our little ones, little ones? Where are you going, our daughters, our own? Turn around and you’re tiny, turn around and you’re old, turn around and you’re gone and we’ve no one to hold.