816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: A tale of two dances

“Will you go to the dance with me?”

The invitation was clever and the answer was guaranteed: My daughter said yes.

And then she went to the homecoming dance alone … which was the plan all along.

For her entire four years of high school Bekah went to the homecoming dance without a date. The first year no one had asked but she wanted to go. She wanted to get dressed up, dance and hang out with her friends.

Bekah is quiet, introverted and not the most outgoing kid — let’s say anxiety hits her harder than the average person. But like adventuring journalist Nellie Bly said, “I said I could and I would. And I did,” Bekah did.

Just after sunset on a cool October evening five years ago she eagerly hopped out of my car at the school wearing a very sophisticated dress, waved and headed fearlessly inside.

Just like that.

I cried. Real tears. Proud and happy tears.

“How was the dance?” I asked that night when I picked her up.

“It was great! So much fun! I’m really glad that I went!”

Two more dresses and two more homecomings followed. I stopped dropping her off when her friends started driving, but every year she was happy that she went. Last year, her senior year, she wanted the experience of being asked. She didn’t have a boyfriend and she had no reason to think that anyone would ask her. But who needs a boyfriend when you have a creative, feminist spirit and photo editing software?

She staged a photo shoot of Dressed One Way Bekah asking Dressed Another Way Bekah to the dance.

She said yes.

On a warm October night last year, and in a cloud of teen dance preparations, a group of girls got ready in Bekah’s room, posed for a couple of quick pictures and headed off shortly after sunset.

“How was it?” I asked when she walked through the door many hours later after her last Homecoming dance.

“It was great! So much fun! I’m really glad I went.”

“Let’s Band Together and go to Homecoming!”

My son, Luke, had been waiting on the stadium steps when the marching band came off the field. He was holding a sign that was more suggestion than question. A slightly embarrassed but smiling French horn player named Jenna said yes.

The answer had been a guarantee. After almost a year of dating, the two juniors had talked about going to the homecoming dance, Luke’s first — he hadn’t wanted to go before. Luke is loud, outgoing and extroverted, his asking in a public place wasn’t a surprise to anyone.

On a warm October afternoon I followed Luke over to Jenna’s house. He was wearing a black shirt and white tie that the two of them had picked out together; she wore an elegant black dress purchased on the same shopping trip. He was handsome, she was stunning; but more importantly, they both were relaxed and had a blast hamming it up as her mom and I took pictures.

Luke drove the couple to a dinner for two; I headed home with a happy heart. A lot of times the kids we see with their friends are not even close to the kids we see at home. At Jenna’s, he was the Luke I know.

“How was the dance?” I asked when he came home many, many hours later.

“It was great,” he said. “I had so much fun, I’m really glad that I went.”

Once again I was reminded that my very different children are not very different at all.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing or to listen to her podcast visit www.thehistorychicks.com