The event was the annual junior prom, a tradition in Grand County that goes back numerous generations, preserving the old-fashioned cotillion where maturing young couples promenade into a ballroom and are formally presented to the public. This is sort of Moab’s version of a “coming-out party,” where in French, English and southern custom, female debutantes of aristocratic stature are presented to their communities.
In Moab, members of the junior class enjoy and give life to this rite of passage that, unfortunately, has become a dying tradition in schools throughout America. It is still an honored event here that takes hundreds of hours of preparation on behalf of students, advisors and volunteers.
I’m amazed at the dedication that occurs each year to make it happen. Students begin learning the dance shortly after the winter holidays, learning time-honored dance steps and life-lasting habits such as posture, stature and graceful carriage. Practices are held multiple times a week. In many households, life is put on hold during prom time, as spare minutes are dedicated to rehearsals and shopping for gowns and tuxedoes.
As the date of the event nears, the students work tirelessly to transform the gymnasium into a wonderland of gauzy fabrics and twinkling lights, creating a magical atmosphere and memories to last a lifetime.
This year’s prom, held last Saturday, was decorated to the theme of “Grecian Gardens,” and the perfume of blossoming trees at the entrance to the high school provided a perhaps accidental but completely appropriate portal into the school-turned-fantasy land. A series of life-sized Greek statues standing on platforms and painted to look like old marble lined the entrance. A second glance at the statues belied the fact that the props weren’t fake – they were real-life mimes standing stock still as if they were guarding Caesar’s Palace.
When I was a kid growing up here my first awareness of junior prom was hearing my parents talk about it. It was the early ‘70s and they had made a date with another couple whose children – several years older than me and my brothers – were promenading. While my siblings and I stayed home with a babysitter, my parents got dressed up, went out to dinner with their friends, then watched the prom afterward. They would come home late in the evening and tell us all about it. My parents and their friends had a custom of doing this when any high-schooler in the two families was promenading. These days, smaller children and family members seem to be welcome to view the promenade ceremony, but not when I was a kid.
Prom memories stick in my head, from back when I didn’t get to go watch, to when I participated in the junior prom myself. Then, as now, juniors generally promenade with a good friend who isn’t necessarily their date at the dance. That’s a smart idea given the fickle dating scene of high school students whose romances can bloom and die at the slightest circumstance.
My date to the junior prom was a GCHS graduate that I had dated in high school but who had gone on to college. By the time my prom rolled around, our long-distance relationship had worn thin. He drove down from Salt Lake City where he was attending college and picked me up barely in time for the dance, let alone for dinner. To add insult to injury, he hadn’t bothered to get me a corsage and I was insulted and sad. No flowers for my prom??
My mom wasn’t around to help remedy the situation – my parents and their friends had already gone out to dinner on their own. So I dug around my mom’s dresser and found a corsage made of silk that she had saved from a previous event where she had worn it. With tear-streaked face I pinned it on and went to the prom, on the last date I ever had with that guy. And that’s what I remember from my prom.
I hope the Class of 2015, whose ranks include my son, took away more enjoyable memories of their moments in the spotlight. I certainly did.