“So Here I Am, With Open Arms…”
“Open Arms” by Journey was the theme song to my own Senior Prom, many, many years ago. Now, as an adult, I will be supervising a senior prom, decades later. I have no idea if they even have Prom Theme Songs anymore.
This is the first color piece since the Winter Formal artwork, which was months ago. In this case, the art is referring to the Senior Prom, which will be tonight. I have been teaching for seventeen years…but never at a high school. As a result, this will be my first Prom as a teacher…and the first prom I’ve thought of since my own…some serious time ago. I don’t really know what to expect from the experience, but I agreed to it during the summer, when I was helping my friend with her Leadership class.
My task, such as it is, is the ticket check in. There’s a brief list of things that I need to check, in order to determine if the person is in fact our student…and furthermore, if they should be there. If you have detention minutes, or other limiting factors…you can’t attend, and I need to bar you from entry. Then I have to confirm that your ticket is in order, and that you are who you say you are. Finally, if that student has a guest, I need to confirm that they are cleared for entry. It’s a pretty decent security checkpoint…very different from my own experience.
The Prom will not be happening on our campus. No scenes from “Carrie” in the high school gym. This Senior Prom will be at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, in a rather impressive room. I don’t know how much money was spent on other things, like entertainment and so forth, but the summer sales pitch on Prom Services had a truly profound amount of “entertainment” and decor choices. Thankfully, I didn’t have to be involved in any of that…I’m just doing the job of TicketMaster.
The venue, an aquarium, is a big part of the reason that the protagonist’s date is a mermaid (or more appropriately, a Pesco-American). For the purposes of the art, in terms of color contrast, I put the protagonist back in her original blue formal wear. Still…as the image took shape, I wanted to get more of an aquatic feel, and an ancient Greek feel, so I did a background image, which I in turn collaged digitally with the original art concept. That gave me this piece, which I am pretty fond of:
I pulled clothes from my closet for the event, to be haul down to the loaner car in the morning. There’s no way I’m going to teach class dressed as if I’m attending Prom…that’s crazy. The day itself if actually designed to be crazy…let’s follow the schedule. It’s a minimum day…for reasons I’m not sure of. That means dismissal at 12:30 (roughly) followed by three hours of meetings on campus. That would let us out at about 3:30…but Prom is not until 8PM. So….four an a half hours of down time. It’s a long day, that will be lasting until midnight, when Prom closes down.
I also have Prom Time Pony ready for the event. A First Senior Prom clearly needs appropriate Ponies, so that’s handled. Prom Time Pony is decked out in appropriate clothing, and has special goggles for Dance Party DS9 Action. So…in every way that is reasonable…except for sleep and commuting, I seem to be ready.
Heck…I even have a Merfolk driven Magic Deck to play during lunch, to keep with the Aquarium of the Pacific theme for the day. That’s commitment, True Believers.
Three administrators and fourteen teachers are scheduled to be on hand to supervise. I have rarely been near school dances at all as an educator, but this…this is legitimately New Ground for me. I have no idea what to expect. I also don’t know all that many seniors, so the connection to the students is not as strong as it was at Homecoming, where I knew a solid quarter of the students coming in, even after just a few months.
I remember that my Prom was in June. This is in April….but honestly, it really does accurately portend that we are very close to the end of the year. Twenty Two school days in April, followed by roughly the same in May…with school closing up in early June. there are merely two months left. A student spoke to me, depressed, about how most of her friends are graduating, just yesterday. Even the students are well aware that we have entered the Endgame of the academic year.
Much like Holden Caulfield, I like to have an ending be an ending, I like to know when things are going to be “goodbye.” As I recently read to my class in the text, “It can be a bad goodbye, or a sad goodbye…” Salinger was speaking only to the need for a kind of closure, on the terms of the young person. I think that’s what Prom, and Senior activities are…the “good byes” that Holden Caulfield wanted. A gradual, two month long progress of events, that lets students grasp, on real terms, that their mandatory public education has come to an end, for better or for worse.
I never had “school spirit.” More importantly, I missed the point of such closures, such departures. I wanted to take so much of what I had with me, while discarding the rest. I wanted relationships to follow me across a continent, friendships to endure time and distance, at exactly the same time I flew as far as I could from everything that I knew. Looking back…I missed the point of Senior Prom in the same galactic scale that I missed the point of “The Catcher in the Rye” the first time that I read it.
Mostly, I miss the feeling of being that young. All the possibility and potential that lay before you, all the roads untraveled. The passion that could be brought to any pursuit, as a moment’s notice…the way that things are Important to your younger self, that is hard to grasp later in life. I wonder where a few of those people I knew then are now. Only a few of them, but those people, I remember fondly. People that I miss, and that I fear I never properly bid goodbyes to.