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Commentary: Prom has the power to transform kids and parents

It's been awhile since I last filled this space and I'm not the same woman I was when I was here last. I generally feel my life is kind of dull and I'm right. But even in an average sort of life, some springs are just more eventful than others.

It's been a few weeks since prom but I'm still feeling a little giddy. Geez, my kids clean up good. I wouldn't have believed it except I have pictures - tons of them. And it wasn't just them. Generally I only see the backs of Bob, Sam and Tim as they head off down the stairs to meet Cory. All I know about what they wear is the collection of size 13s that litter the front-door rug. But those tuxedoes are kind of like Superman's tights - they transform even the most mild-mannered shy guy into a pretty good-looking date. Those boys were beautiful.

My only previous experience with prom was at boarding school where you just didn't rent the tux, you had to kind of rent the guys as well. The nuns bused them in and it took until almost the end of the dance to get each other's names right. So I admit to a few vicarious thrills during the lead up to this spring's big event.

Having twins go, one girl and one boy, gave us the full experience at the Heaton house. The preparations are entirely different, as one would expect. Cory's list of things to do had two things on it - rent the tux and get the corsage. Katie's, on the other hand, was about 10 times as long and included everything from hair highlights to something akin to the full paint job Maaco auto body shops advertise.

As the weeks went on, I knew the shoes and the hair and the makeup were a must, but I drew the line at plastic surgery. I stood firm on that.

Renting the tux was fun. It took a while but the saleswoman and I were finally able to talk Cory out of looking like one of the Sopranos. Actually, all the credit goes to her. Somehow she managed to convince him that "all black don't match and if they don't, it just doesn't work. A little texture goes a long way." My thoughts exactly.

The corsage was fun. It goes way beyond matching the flowers to your date's dress. The flowers are only a part of it. In the new millennium, a corsage can come with beads, a bracelet, even fiber optic lights. At any minute I expected the crew at the Hudson Flower Shop to pull out one fitted with a camera or a cell phone. Not a bad idea for us Moms who would give anything to see our boys dance.

Katie's aunts Mary and Kathy, who only have sons and missed all the drama only 17-year-old girls can add to an event, helped to bankroll my usually frugal daughter's list. The hair, the makeup, the nails - my sisters had it covered head to toe. I think Mary might have popped for a facial for Cory but that just wasn't going to happen even if the lead singer from Audio Slave gets facials.

The best thing about prom this year is that it fell on my birthday - nothing like being around a whole lot of beautiful young women, dressed to the nines to make a mom feel great about turning 54. I tried to remember what it felt like back in 1969 getting ready for the biggest blind date I'd ever had. My clearest memory was of making my dress with my mom. Neither of us were very good at sewing, but we had great ideas. It had this Peter Pan collar (cleavage of any kind was strictly forbidden by the pope, according to Sister Mary Magdalen) that my Dad - famous for his accurate eye - kept telling us was not centered. I think we went back for extra material twice before we decided it would just be easier for me to keep my head cocked to one side all night long. We laughed about that a lot over the years, and I remembered that as I looked at Katie in her strapless dress. Everything looked straight and even. I wish Mom could have seen it for herself.

A week after prom, the kids turned 18. Now being 18 in Wisconsin isn't the big deal it was when I was that age, thank god. But they both made sure to buy a lottery ticket that day and had to turn down several kids who wanted them to buy cigarettes for them. Even if 18 isn't as big a deal as it used to be, I was reminded by them that they will vote in the next election, that their medical information is now their own and that there were any number of things that I, as the mother of now adult children, would be privy to only at their invitation.

I reminded them that the same could apply to dinner and the use of my car - available only by my invitation. But despite the fact that nothing as far as laundry, allowance and the amount of food we go through in a week has changed, it does feel like the balance of power has been slightly disrupted. And it didn't help when Cory got that notice to register with the Selective Service. Kevin, formerly No. 14 in the draft, got a little pale when it came. Just one more step toward the door.

But right now the only thing they seem in a hurry to do is finish the school year. I'm for that. I'm just glad they don't graduate this year. I think I'll handle that a lot better when I'm 55. I plan to grow up a lot this next year.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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