Monday, May 21, 2012

Prom Night 2012: Year Of The Dragon

It's Friday - it's Prom Night for my soon-to-be 17 year old daughter. She arrives home from school with no expectation, excitement or even knowledge that tonight will be any different from any other night.  She will have three dates:  her father, driving down from Maryland just for the evening, her step-dad and me.

I head her straight upstairs after school and slip her into a soapy tub noticing her S-shaped spine, the hallmark of scoliosis.  Noticing the tiny scar along her upper right rib where the chest tube was placed at 22 months old after she aspirated on vomit during a 60 minute tonic clonic seizure.  So many stories we've shared.  So many stories, and here we are all these years later.  

I shampoo her hair, carefully shave her legs, pat her dry and secure her back in a diaper and comfy clothes then proceed to torture her by blow drying and brushing her hair.

I plug in my curling wand and practice the patience of twirling sections of hair into soft tendrils on an uncooperative victim of my primping.  She is overwhelmed by all of this physical attention and dramatic change in her after-school routine.  I am overwhelmed with happiness at another night of prom.  The hair won't last more than an hour, but that's okay.  It's worth it to dress my baby girl up once a year.  It's worth it to make her look as special as she is.

In keeping with this year's prom theme of the Chinese New Year, I dress her in a red floor length gown.

Excited to use my new camera, it was a challenge to keep myself patient and not disappointed when the "photo shoots" turned sour.  Getting a picture of CB with her sisters really got her peeved...

and tearful... and aggressive.

This is before she smacked Tink in the head...

and this is after clocking Tink and poking Pink in the eye and every one's mood was going down hill fast.

So, obviously that went well.

I tell her no one can be this miserable when they look this beautiful, but she just isn't having any of it.  This is the time I have to forget about my voracious picture taking habit and just leave her a little peace.

The prom is the brain child of Jessica C., a vocational specialist at my daughter's special school who decided four years ago to put together an amazing prom night for the students and their parents.   

A mother of 2 and a full time employee, Jessica does not get paid anything extra for the hours and hours she and the prom committee volunteers spend to organize a spectacular event.  They do not cut corners because they think the kids "won't notice."  In fact, they strive to make it just as elegant, special, and beautiful as any "typical" prom at a "typical" school.  If the world were full of people like Jessica it would be a magnificent place.

CB and her devoted teacher of 5 years, who worked all day, is on the prom committee, and attended the prom  8 months pregnant. Bless her sweet soul!

It was really difficult to get CB's picture all night.  This is the usual case with her, but it seemed even more difficult for some reason.  Probably because I was all eager with my new camera.  So I figured when someone won't look at the lens, I'll just have to get all "artsy" with it.

We had to take about 17 shots to get these 2 pictures of us without her crying.

Her mood was a bit all over the place tonight and she had a few "Mike Tyson" moments, punching unsuspecting people who got too close.  I escaped the right hooks, but got a killer calf workout from wrangling her while in stilettos.  

I think most of the time she was happy though.  Especially when the DJ got going.

Some of the student's from CB's class together for a photo.  

A friend of mine from church was there with her son.  We often find ourselves sitting back in the church's "crying room" together.  Her son, verbal and able to perform many more life skills than CB, attempted to coax her out on the dance floor.  She was demure, playing a tad bit hard to get. But, she didn't right hook him. It was the sweetest thing I've ever seen.

As always, it is a great night.  A night where we can all show up with our children and not feel conspicuous, not "shush" them or stop them from being themselves in a public setting.  It is not just a night for them, it is a night for us too as their caregivers.  A night to be able to do something really special with our children in a space of comfort and love.  A place where no one does a double take, no one backs away, no one stares or wonders.  Everyone here shares the same story.

CB had a great time, but I have to admit that when we arrived home at 10:30 pm, that's when I saw the biggest smile of the night on her face.  She was just happy to snuggle up in bed and sleep.  A girl after my own heart.


Becca said...

She really is an astonishingly beautiful young woman. I'm glad you all had a good night.

I'm imagining how a nondisabled 17 year old might react to being asked to pose on the sofa with her baby sisters... and am thinking that her response may not be all that different from CB's. Probably just a bit swearier. :)

Anonymous said...

You have a beautiful daughter. You also possess an enormous and elegant talent for writing and " putting it out there" I have a 3 year old son on the severe side of the spectrum who has just been diagnosed with touretts syndrome and seizures. It's a hard journey, however reading your blog always makes me feel a little better when things are not going so well. Please continue to write and know that you have made a difference.

Anonymous said...

sniff. you saved the best pic for last.
beautiful, beautiful. you and your girl touch me deeply.

Jessica said...

She is so beautiful and your account of the whole night, from beginning until end was perfect. I love that you share every bit of being a special needs parent so eloquently.

Angie@TheLittleMumma said...

This was incredibly moving. As others have said, you write so eloquently. Just beautiful.

And nice work with the new camera. You have some skills, lady!

Elizabeth said...

Oh, Alicia. This post has made me weep like a baby. Not sadness, though -- something perfect and bittersweet, I think. The photo of her alone -- the black and white/sepia-toned one is astounding -- as is the last with her mysterious blue lake eyes looking up. Just immense -- all of it. I'll say it again -- I wish that I lived down the street from you.

kario said...

I love your honesty about all of it, and the way you let CB express herself the way she knows how. Thank you for the photos and the play-by-play of the night. The people who worked to make this happen are truly angels and I hope they know it.

Glad you had a good evening.

Richelle said...

This looks like such an awesome evening! The pics of CB with the girls so much reminded me of trying to get Polly's pic with anyone around...someone usually takes one for the team. I'm not sure if she senses the effort of me trying to get a good pic or what. It makes her very anxious. I really just have to let her do her thing and get more candid, real-life pictures where she usually isn't looking at me at all. But, they sometimes turn out even better! Thank you for sharing your lovely daughter's prom night with us! The folks that work so hard to make it happen are heaven sent...

Ashley's Mom said...

Your post has given me hope for my daughter and her prom. What you describe of the night will more than likely mirror my daughter's night. I want my Ashley's night to special, but more than that, I would like for her to remember it fondly...

Here is a post I recently wrote about dreams for my daughter's prom experience :

Alicia (Dr. Mom) said...

hi richelle! im always amazed at how much CB and Polly sound so much alike :). i wish we could get them together! always so nice to hear from you and i hope you and your family are doing well.

cameramom said...

She is so pretty! Jarrett's social group has their prom next week.

Alicia (Dr. Mom) said...

@cameramom - i hope jarrett has a GREAT TIME at prom! :)

Sunday said...

Oh Alicia, this was so beautiful. I love CB so much and I've never even met her.

Your posts give me so much hope for a bright future like this for my boys. Hoping they won't miss out on the typical stuff other kids do (even though they could probably care less).

Angel Shrout said...

Came by from Sunday's place. Now I am in tears. I think it is awesome this woman came up with this. Your daughter is beautiful and so is your photography. She has the most gorgeous eyes..

edioval said...

So beautiful. All of it. The night, the teacher (8 months pregnant and still loving her kids), the picture of your daughter heading to the dance floor with her friend. Thank you for sharing this slice of your life. As the saying goes, all these rainbow moments.

Alicia (Dr. Mom) said...

@Sunday - thank you... and CB could totally care less too! LOL! But then you think of it... what teenager cares about ANYthing?!?!
@ Angel Shrout - So happy you stopped by! Thanks for the sweet comment!

LittleBird said...

I just stumbled over here from Adventures in Extreme Parenting and wanted to say how much I loved this post!

What a great idea! A prom where everyone can be themselves and have fun!

Your pictures are great, the artsy ones turned out very very pretty.

One more thing, CB's eyes are beautiful! I wish more 'outsiders' could see these parts of autistic people. The parts that make them beautiful and interesting and different (and ok, life's not easy, but it's never boring!)

Christy said...

Wow what a beautiful dress, and post, and your house! I love it! I wish they did this twice a year for you all - spring and winter! :)

The right hook line made me bust out laughing, and the pictures of her and your friends son are darling!!!

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