"I'm a nurse, so I understand the process, but still I'm so frustrated," said Sharon Bostwick as she settled into the seat next to me and we got under way. "I really wanted to be there for my daughter today."
Sharon was an attractive middle-aged woman with bobbed red hair, keen green eyes and a piercing, clear energy about her. Not that she appeared angry or belligerent. Quite the opposite — she was smiling and seemed genuinely friendly as she spoke to me. But I had a feeling that this was not a person you'd want to cross, particularly if the issue concerned her kid.
"What was the holdup?" I asked. "Were you supposed to have a procedure done this weekend?"
"Yes, yesterday — a relatively minor hernia operation. But now they want to have their top guy look at the pics before they proceed. And, apparently, he won't be in until Monday. I could have stayed up here until then, but no way was I going to miss Madison's prom."
I glanced at the dashboard clock, which read 2:28, and said, "You're in Pittsford, right? We should get you home late afternoon. That should be fine, shouldn't it? I mean, proms happen at night. Or at least they used to."
Sharon turned toward me, chuckling at my naïve perception of the situation. "You're not a mom, so you don't get it," she explained. "There's the whole preparation, which takes, like, all day. The hair, the makeup and, of course, the dress itself. It's all about the dress. Luckily, my sister is ably filling in for me. She's a good auntie."
Sharon's phone beeped, and she said, "Speak of the devil. She's been sending me photos all day." She clicked the screen and sent back a text.
"Here, look at this," she said, angling her cellphone in my direction. "They're at the hairdresser's. What do you think?"
I saw hair, a lot of it. It was, presumably, the back of her daughter's head, and the teen's lustrous black mane was pinned up and arranged in an intricate formation of waves and braids. There was probably a name for this hairdo, but darned if I knew. In fact, "hairdo" is probably not even the right word, I thought, laughing inwardly.
"It looks, like, elaborate?" I cluelessly replied. "But lovely."
"Well, I gave it my approval. The kid better like it, because this is the second attempt, and time's running short."
We turned onto Route 7 for the protracted slog south — slow going because of all the towns we would pass through, combined with the dearth of passing lanes. I didn't mind, though. It was a dazzling spring afternoon, and this customer was fine company.
"So, Sharon, tell me about the dress," I said, getting into the spirit of the day.
"What a drama!" she said, laughing. "Last year, for junior prom, we drove down to this town in western Mass where all the girls seem to get their dresses. Madison found one she loved, a simple plaid shift but just lovely. She looked great in it, plus it was cheap — $119, if I remember correctly. Before we bought it, she first checked the Facebook page the junior girls had set up, because God forbid two girls show up in the same dress. Whoever buys it first has dibs, and we were good.
"So, we're all so happy, but, coming back into town, she checks again and somehow another girl had gotten this same dress before her. Madison was distraught, as only a 16-year-old girl can be distraught. But after a big cry, down to sniffles, she says, 'Oh, fuck it, Mom — I'm wearing this thing.'
"I didn't appreciate the language but loved the attitude. Her resolve, however, lasted just 24 hours, because the next day at school all the girls effectively shamed her so bad about it that we had to buy her a different dress. Luckily, we found a nice replacement in Manchester."
"And this year?" I asked.
"Oh, she's wearing this gorgeous two-piece. A little daring, but nothing scandalous. Here, take a look."
She clicked it up and passed me the phone. No only was the dress gorgeous, but, now viewing Madison from the front, I could see that she was, too.
"Your daughter is so pretty," I said. "A real heartbreaker, I bet."
"Oh, just the opposite, really. In fact, both her and her twin brother were recently dumped by their longtime boyfriend and girlfriend. With graduation looming for the seniors, this happens a lot. So much heartache in the Bostwick household, but the two of them are resilient kids."
"So Madison has a twin," I said, taking that in. "I imagine he's got prom tonight, too?"
"Oh, jeez — I'm so wrapped up with Madison and her outfit, I didn't even mention Jason! Yup, he's going, too. He, of course, will require exactly 15 minutes to get ready. Here's a recent picture of them together."
Jason was carrying his sister piggyback as they both faced the camera laughing and smiling. Jason was as beautiful as his sister.
"You know," Sharon said, "when Madison was younger, she was totally disinterested in clothes. She was a tomboy and an athlete, and all she wanted to wear was baggie gym shorts and T-shirts. It was such a bummer for me, because half the fun of having a little girl is dressing her up in pretty dresses.
"I know that sounds selfish and shallow, but it's true! But when she hit the teen years, lucky me, she got interested in more girly stuff. She's still an active athlete, which is awesome, but now we can also have fun shopping together."
"Are the twins going to college in the fall?" I asked.
"Yup, Jason will be attending Endicott College and Madison's going to UVM, my alma mater. Madison was making noises about taking a gap year. I told her, 'That's great, honey. A gap year can be very rewarding. If you want to live at home, of course, you'll have to get a full-time job.'"
"Very smooth, Sharon," I observed, chuckling. "How did Madison respond?"
"She considered this for about five seconds and said, 'UVM, here I come!'"
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.