My Scrambled Nest

An Almost-Empty Nest Journey of "Letting Go" With Laughter and Love, By Cathy Free

Last week, I went shopping with my daughter for the third (and last) time for a high school homecoming dress. Although it was a bittersweet outing, we’ve certainly come a long way since our first trip to Dillards’ prom dress department when she was a sophomore. Then, she accused me of wanting her to dress neck-to-toe in scratchy calico like Laura Ingalls Wilder after I pointed out that a backless, midnight blue gown was a bit too “revealing.”

I made a quick save that day in the dressing room and explained that I meant to say the dress was “revelatory” about her personality. Perhaps too revelatory. In the end, it didn’t matter because my girl used her common sense and picked out a lacy black-and-cream dress that looked like something Grace Kelly would have worn to New York City’s 21 Club.

Since that first excursion, I’ve learned that the secret to shopping for teen formal wear is to casually sit back, snap pics of each outfit and offer more “wows” and “yowzas” than “hmmmmms.” I now trust my daughter to winnow her choices to the top three and keep my preferences for a slinky, golden Gatsby dress or ballerina-style layers of black taffeta and tulle to myself.

This is her fantasy, not mine.

Last week, after she settled on a merlot-colored, sleeveless gown with a midriff panel of sheer lace, my daughter turned to me with shining eyes as we took the escalator down to the jewelry department to pick out some matching earrings.

“Thanks, Mom,” she said, beaming. “I love it.”

I felt a little pang inside when I realized that there will only be a few more moments like these, with a holiday dance coming up and prom night in April. Perhaps I’ll help her to pick out a new dress to celebrate high school graduation. And then she’ll be off to college, on her own.

No wedding dresses yet, I want to tell her. No maternity dresses for the next decade, either. Take one milestone at a time. Instead, when we get home and she fans out her new dress on her bed to admire it, I give her a hug and tell her simply, “Nicely done, sweetie. Love you.”

She will always have my heart.

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