‘”Respect your elders'”, I was told by my mom when I was growing up. They have toiled decades on this earth. They are wise, engaging and provide links to our history. They endured a lifetime of ups and downs and are true survivors. They are grateful for what they have and do not exude a sense of entitlement.
So when my friend Dina invited me to a “Senior Prom for Seniors” she was holding at the Central Presbyterian Church in Haverstraw, NY, I had to go.
First on the agenda was to find a dress with tons of tulle, bell-shaped and crinkled loudly. Next, I researched what hair-do would compliment the mass of tulle.
I arrived stag at the prom and completely over-dressed. What was I thinking? The majority of Americans don’t dress for anything other than a wedding. They gladly wear flip flops and cut-offs to sit in a church pew or a baseball cap, visor backwards in a fine restaurant with their plumber’s crack exposed. Nevertheless, I will never dress down for a dinner event.
The theme of the prom was “Hooray for Hollywood”, so I felt obligated to roll in with shellacked hair, beaming smile, and gown. I was greeted by photographers with Polaroid cameras (how I miss that invention!) and a rolled out red carpet with ebullient volunteers eager to escort me to my table.
Keeping with the Hollywood theme, the room was decorated with silver and black balloons, a photography designated area appropriately named “Red Carpet Affair,” for anyone in need of a “Silver Screen head shot” and a DJ playing music from the 1950s and 60s.
I eyed the room looking to sit next to guests who appeared warm and inviting. I was immediately drawn to Margaret and Pat, a happily married couple of over 50 years. They raised four boys on virtually one salary. Pat worked as a used car salesman and Margaret worked sporadically in warehouses once their sons started to attend school. The most infectious thing about them was that their outfits were carefully coordinated. Margaret was dressed in a fuchsia and lavender floral sun dress and Pat was spiffy in a purple button down dress shirt with rose colored suit jacket. Undoubtedly, I haven’t met such a chatty, sweet elderly couple who shared their opinions about the area they have lived for over 50 years and how much they have witnessed over the decades. I savored their wise observations about history and the world we live in today.
Dinner soon followed and everyone feasted on poultry, dumplings and salad. Afterwards, I headed over to talk to the gentleman wearing a smile and a fedora. I am weak for men in hats with character. Baseball hats excluded.
Fedora toting Jorge, the beaming Cuban immigrant, has lived in America for the past 5 years. Not only does he adore being here, but he could not stop boasting about it. I rarely meet immigrants so honest and eager to divulge their history and background. I identified with him, since my family fled Communist Poland and couldn’t wait to assimilate into the American culture. Jorge was bursting with pride as he recounted how he is living the “American dream.” In Cuba he was an engineer, but found it difficult to work in his field. He now works in quality control for a corporation. He said “I make more money here than in Cuba but I’m still poor. But at least I am free, happy and visited Niagara Falls, Virginia and took a cruise.” His enthusiasm was contagious. He warmed my heart and reinforced why I love the human connection so much. I am constantly learning from people and treasure their stories of hardship turned positive. I am truly inspired by their life stories.
What should one wear to a Senior Prom for seniors? Callula Lillibelle Janie lace dress, vintage pearl collar necklace, Delman polka dot kitten shoes. Yup, had to show you a closeup of this snazzy shoe.
“Hooray for Hollywood” ended too quickly. I wanted to hear more stories from real people who have experienced so much in life. Just as children are unabashedly honest, seniors are direct as well. I prefer their company because of their ability to tell a cogent and truthful story. They always transport me to a place in history and connect me to their interpretation of that experience.
I vow to spend more time with the older generation. They see things differently from my contemporaries and offer a wealth of information and good common sense. As my mom always tells me “One day you will be old. Respect your elders, so that one day you will be respected and looked after.” Though the prospect of needing care at that point in my life is daunting, I would be heartened if I were to be accorded the respect which I give to the senior generation.
I couldn’t end this post without leaving you with a snap shot of an original image from my senior prom. I was still going through a Punk/Goth phase and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing what all the other cream-puffed, preppy-pastel-satin-trimmed, suburban Stepford Teen – clad cheerleaders wore. The minute my eyes locked with this sequin cob-webbed number at the local mall, I saw stars and I hallucinated that Siouxsie from the band, Siouxsie and the Banshees threw me a wink, nod and kiss.
Why are most prom dresses so odious, they are best suited to be made into a curtain for the set of the movie “Winter’s Bone?” Don’t settle girls. These prom dresses are what should be worn to your memorable evening.