“Aren’t prom dresses supposed to be like – floor length?” I asked my daughter Marika, over ten years ago, never having been to a prom myself. She already had a closet full of gowns but insisted on buying the short, cream-colored, strappy one for her senior prom. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with cancer. She blogged, “… prom …. i’m still deciding whether or not to go. i’ve got a date, a dress, and will have tickets, but i won’t have hair. ick…” Then she had respiratory failure and seizures. When she regained consciousness she learned she would miss her prom. Prom #1.
On the evening of the prom, the nurses draped my still-dazed daughter in the dress I’d brought to the hospital upon their request. They propped her up in bed wearing the new red wig my mother bought. When Marika’s boyfriend arrived in his tux, with a bouquet of red silk roses, they put the young couple in a spare room decorated with white balloons and crepe paper. And a boom-box. From the cafeteria, I fetched two tiny cups of red jello, the only thing Marika could swallow without choking. Prom #2.
Marika was able to attend her high school graduation. She marched, wearing the wig and the prom dress under her cap and gown. Days later she ended up back in the hospital. For most of the summer, until two weeks before she and her friends were to go off for their freshman year at colleges all over the country.
Marika’s family and closest friends, desperate to make her happy, made her a special make-up prom. A prom by Cayuga Lake, in the Pavilion at Stewart Park. With her favorite band and over 75 friends. Sandwiches and drinks provided by local restaurants. Still shaky on her feet, Marika wore the wig, her sparkly heels, and the prom dress. She danced. And I danced, always with one eye on her tired smile. I danced like I’d never danced before or since. Like I could shake off forever that summer of darkness. Like I could forget the sight of my girl lying lifeless strung all over with tubes, forget watching her have to learn to walk again, or the disappointment on her face at every setback. Prom #3.
Somehow, Marika recovered enough in time for college. When I left her off at Clark University she had the tiniest fuzz of hair growth, and was abandoning the wig.
Ten years after all this, I sometimes find myself in a funk, fretting over stupid things. My thinning hair, my varicose veins, wrinkles, having to wear eyeglasses…. Then I try to remember, I’m the mother of the girl in the prom dress. In the photos she proudly wears that same dress to parties at college. My Marika. She got cancer, got bruised and scarred up, lost her eyesight on one side, and lost her hair. But she put on her dress and bravely went out dancing anyway.
Who or what inspires you? When’s the last time you went out dancing? What do you do to keep going when nothing seems to be going in your favor?