published Friday, May 4th, 2012

Leber: Prom season brings back memories, a corsage

Thanks to a forgetful or unsentimental adolescent girl, I am now the proud owner of a corsage for the first time in 14 years.

Granted, it's already slightly wilted and has a hideously ugly magenta sequined wristband, but it makes me smile. A certain lovely man found it abandoned somewhere between the Bluff View Art District and our downtown Chattanooga apartment and brought it home to me. It is now living in our refrigerator between a container of homemade aloo gobi and a bottle of Hershey's syrup.

Oh, prom time. Has anyone else been waxing nostalgic as teenagers in elaborate (sometimes very elaborate) gowns and tuxedos pose on the Walnut Street Bridge?

I have. As these young men and women parade through town on their way to what is certainly one of the quintessential childhood rites of passage, they take me back to the late '90s and my own prom-going adventures.

By the way, this Northern lady cannot get used to seeing kids done up in formalwear in April. I'm coming up on my fifth summer in Chattanooga, and it still flummoxes me. Our proms were in June.

I also find myself flummoxed by some of the outfits I've been seeing. I'm not sure if it was my day or my particular stomping grounds, but I seem to recall much more subdued prom attire. There was a lot of black, both from the males and the females. I'm pretty sure we were making up for wearing too much neon in the '80s. There was nary a white tuxedo to be seen. And God bless you boys who are putting on turquoise blue and hot pink vests and ties to match your dates' dresses. I hope those girls appreciate it.

I went to a total of four proms in 1997 and 1998, and I don't remember everything, just little snippets. I recall traipsing into a McDonald's with my friends, all done up. I remember swing dancing on a Connecticut beach with my best friend and him dropping me on the sand. I remember singing the score of "Rent" in a limousine. I remember my then-boyfriend's classmate kissing my hand in an attempt to be suave. I remember falling down a flight of stairs in front of my date, his parents, my sister and my mother.

So much for my Cinderella moment, eh?

Memory is a strange thing, isn't it? I have a rather odd and long one. I remember small details sometimes, like the purple corduroy overalls with the pink flowers that I was wearing the day my parents told me my great uncle had died. I was 5 at the time. I have basically no memory of him, but I remember those purple overalls.

The thing about those prom-night memories is that they aren't particularly profound. There were no great romantic adventures; I don't remember the songs I danced to (though I'm positive "My Heart Will Go On" must have been played at my senior prom); and, most of all, I don't remember thinking about what that particular moment in time meant, or the significance of it all.

Maybe I was thinking about that then. I hope I was, just for a minute or two.

I hope these kids will remember their prom nights in 15 years -- not everything, just a few details. I hope they'll look back and laugh. I hope they're happy to go and sad to leave.

And I hope some of them look at pictures and think, "Oh, good Lord, what was I wearing?"

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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