I wrote this piece several months ago, but it seemed timely now that prom season is in full swing.
I recently attended the NJ All Shore Chorus’ 53rd Annual Recital. My daughter was awarded a music scholarship from All Shore this year and when she texted me from the auditions to say she had the scholarship, the first thing I thought about (after yay!) was, what will she wear? There really isn’t any pomp and circumstance to choir wardrobes. Although she’s needed clothes for every kind of choir you can imagine, from high school to a touring A Capella group, outfitting her has always been the same. “Mom, I need a black dress.” (It’s amazing how many different kinds of black dresses one girl can own.) But now were were shopping for a soloist gown that might be red, or teal, or peach, with beads, or sequins! I was giddy.
When I was in high school I had just one gown, when we, as seniors, we were encouraged to dress formally for our final spring music recital. I remember the day when my mother bought me a fancy dress for that occasion.” Don’t tell your father how much we spent,” she said. “Just hang it up in your room. He probably won’t even notice.” The dress she bought me was over budget, but “for some things we make exceptions,” she said. Now it felt like my time to pay it forward.
Busy schedules sent us shopping after 8pm on three separate occasions, until finally we found the perfect dress which unfortunately did not have the perfect price tag. But how could I not buy this for her? How many times will an event like this happen? I could hear mother’s voice in my mind, “She looks so beautiful in that gown. She feels beautiful. So, you’ll have to turn the thermostat down for a month and skip all the takeout until Spring. Do it. You will regret it if you don’t.” And then a saleslady named Anu came into the fitting room and sighed with me. “You have to get this one,” she said in an Indian accent.
“It’s really more than I was planning on spending.” I said.
“Don’t worry about the price mommy.” she said, “I fix it for you.”
And she did. Bless that saleslady who with the swipe of two coupons knocked the price of that dress down by 40%. Anu has daughters too she told me, who are all grown now. “When they feel and look that beautiful? There is not a price for that. You’re a good mom,” she said. “We moms have to stick together.” She smiled and zipped up the garment bag. “Now you carry it,” she said to my daughter. “Mom did enough hard work today.”
When she stood on the stage that night and sang for us it was perfect. It was all worth it, every penny. And after the concert, and then our small after party, I was thinking that I hope one day my own daughters will have the chance to buy their own girls a dream dress. And if not that, then maybe like Anu did, they can help in some other way.
There are so many things our kids want to do that require money and time we’d rather spend elsewhere. But we spend it on them for whatever the important reasons are at the time. For me, this was one of those times.
It’s true, if it can make them look and feel like a million bucks, there really is no price for that. And to my own mom and to Anu I am grateful to be reminded that you can’t buy happiness, but once in a while you can buy a really great dress.