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The Embarrassing High School Prom Aftermath

June 26, 2014

Our prom would be the best in the history of Delmar Public High School, there was no doubt.  As was the tradition at D.H.S., the Junior Class did the decorations and food service for the Senior Class, and both enjoyed the night of fancy dress and local live music. I sat among the members of the Planning Committee, grinning and scribbling as we smugly nodded to each other and winked knowingly.  We knew we had the design, the theme and the overall creative energy to make this the best prom night since the Delaware school was founded in 1928.

imageWhat’s not to like?  Our theme song was from the movie “Mahoghany”, sung wistfully by Diana Ross and loved by our class, despite the atrocious slaughtering of the English grammar (“Do you know where you’re going to?”) that would send our teacher Miss Hammond into fits of rage.  Our colors were blue and silver (we chose it because we liked the color combination shown on the Detroit Lions’ uniforms on ABC’s Monday night football).  Quietly, I burst with pride because the Committee had approved my suggestion of putting up Victorian street lamps.  I found industrial tubing and poles that would suffice, and our budget allowed for black paint, wiring, lightbulbs, and cardboard for fashioning the tops.  I was obsessed with the thought of seeing our room at the Delmarva Convention Center being dotted with street lamps.  For weeks I dreamed of gently-lit street lamps.  We couldn’t lose!  The place would look gorgeous.  I happily agreed to Derrick Baker’s suggestion of having an ivy-covered trellis (“We have a barn covered with fresh ivy, and we could make it look real natural!”) and Alan Whitmire’s plan to make a fiberglass fountain.  All of Delaware and Maryland would gasp in amazement at the sheer beauty of our decorating ingenuity!

We never studied other schools’ designs nor did we take suggestions from professional decorators who would have gladly donated their help.  After all, we were young and fresh with ideas!  We could handle this better than any other high school could imagine.

The night before the prom we juniors were out in full force in moving, measuring, taping, and decorating the local convention hall room.  The project soon took a change, not for the better.  Although initially we piled in excitedly, bursting with pride and energy, things soon began to fall apart.  Alan had indeed brought in a handcrafted fountain – he’d even had it fiberglassed – but the fountain was less than half the size we had imagined, and besides, it didn’t work.  The motor burned out. For some odd reason we decided to let it sit in the middle of the room anyway, looking like an inverted bathroom tub waiting for the local garbage pickup.

Then the street lamps wouldn’t stay together.  Duct tape had not yet been discovered, and we were folding cardboard and spray-painting masking tape at a frantic pace.  We couldn’t wire them for actual lighting, either.  I was devastated.  My street lamps! I had envisioned dozens of them; we would be lucky if we had six of them ready for the next night.  Dejected, I looked across at the trellis, our main entrance.  “Zockoll, come on,” Derrick huffed, carrying armloads of ivy.  “My pickup truck is full of the stuff and I need help.”  Susan, Blair and three others ran to help him.  I shook my head as I looked at the vines; they looked sickly.  “You think you ought to put them in water, near the base or something?” I asked Derrick.  “It looks like the stuff is wilting already.”  Derrick shrugged and hoisted himself up on a ladder.  I walked away, not wanting to be blamed for such an ugly set-up.

Despite the mediocre hall appearance, Friday night was fun.  We rural kids scrubbed and squeezed ourselves into our rented formal wear, posing before our parent’s Kodak 110 Instamatics and piling ourselves into our borrowed station wagons.  When my date and I arrived, complete in our green get-up (I am not kidding – I wore a forest green tux and Rhonda wore a green pastel gown with a humongous Southern Belle hat.  Also, my pants were too short. ) I glanced around and grinned.  We may not have the most beautiful prom display, but by gum, we all looked pretty good when we cleaned up.  I ignored the ugly fountain and glanced once at the dead-looking ivy before steering my date towards the food table, consisting mostly of triangle-cut chicken salad sandwiches and Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

The following Monday I plodded into the first period Science class before the opening bell.  In walked Derrick, puffy-eyed and morose. He looked awful.

“Derrick!  What happened to you?  Did you get in a wreck or something?”

He grimaced and squinted.  “Aw, now, Brad, you’re gonna make fun of me just because I did something stupid.”

I shrugged.  “What are you talkin’ about?  What did you do?”

He sat down heavily.  “I made a mistake.  The ivy wasn’t dead.  But it wasn’t the right kind of ivy either.”

“You mean…?”

He looked down and grinned.  “Yep.  We pulled a whole pickup’s worth of poison ivy off of my dad’s barn. That’s what we were decorating with.”

“B-but you were carrying it in by the armloads…”

He nodded.  “Oh, yeah.  I got it all over me, man.  And I’m not the only one.”

Susan walked in.  He left eye was a misshaped mass.  Blair eased in, his arms coveredimage with calamine lotion.  He looked like he had leprosy. All of them got it, bad.  All over themselves.  Walking zombies, I tell you, plodding down the hall and wincing as they shuffled.  And sweated.  Susan wouldn’t keep her hands off of her eye and it spread to almost half her face, causing numerous students to boisterously call for her expulsion from the lunchroom so they could eat without revulsion.  Blair’s poison ivy moved up from his arms to his neck, so in using more calamine lotion he appeared to be wearing a white turtleneck sweater.  Derrick and his little gang suffered for weeks in the spring humidity and faulty air-conditioning of the school.

We thought we were going to make history that night. Well, we did set the record for the  greatest poison ivy outbreak in the annals of prom traditions.

The wise saying of the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian church tells us that one of the faults of the critics of the church was that they “measured themselves among themselves” and “compared themselves by themselves” which he freely said was stupid.  When we set the bar so low as to compare ourselves only within our own circle – and with such arrogance, I may add – we’re bound to get ourselves into a mess.

Although I escaped that malady, I took the remembrance of that fiasco with me to this day.  I always strive to seek advice.  I try to remember to ask questions and cultivate a willingness to learn.  I set a goal of learning at least one new fact a day.  I look for mentors.  Even at the age of fifty-five, I try to keep the mind of an ever-learning student looking to grow, and not as a fountainhead of knowledge who only gushes forth gallons of recycled factoids.

And I strive to learn more about the Scripture.  Oh, how much there is.  Every day is filled with the opportunity to discover new truths about the Kingdom of God.  That’s the Grand Adventure, and I never want to step off that pathway.

Because I might get poison ivy.


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