Shedding tears in the dress shop…

As my youngest stood in the dress shop, donning an exquisite prom dress…tears spilled from my eyes.

But not for reasons one would think.

While she looked beautiful and her face glowed with the excitement of wearing a fabulous gown…I did not feel sentimental about the passing of time. The fact is…this isn’t her prom but her boyfriends…so for me, it will be another year before I feel the loss that comes from knowing she’s growing up…leaving home.

My tears, were something entirely different.

I stood there watching her turn in the mirror and remembered where I’d been, compared to where I am now.

In June of 2010, my oldest, Emily, graduated High School and it seems like yesterday I wrote the post “Verclempt“…trying to put into words the feelings that had completely engulfed me.

Months before the actual day, Emily began her quest for the perfect prom dress…perusing magazines and online…looking at hairstyles, picking out shoes, deciding on colours. When the local prom shops opened for the season and as each of her friends went shopping and came home with their treasures…my daughter had a difficult time convincing me to take her shopping.

The fact of the matter was a simple one…I knew what those dresses cost…and the thought of taking her shopping, finding a dress and not being able to purchase it was just one more reminder of everything I was facing…and how much I believed I’d failed.

With my life in shambles and financial upheaval, I had no idea how I could possibly purchase her dream gown and as she asked repeatedly (and understandably), I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders…not wanting to ask my parents for even more help when they were already helping to cover monthly bills and court costs.

I was miserable.

Eventually, long after many of my daughter’s friends had purchased their gowns and her frustration well equalled mine…I asked my parents for help.

My mom, being the most amazing, giving, thoughtful, generous person that she is…slipped me a “few sheckles” with the intention that I could head out on the dress shopping adventure…never revealing where the money had come from.

I wanted no part of that.

To me, if my mother chose to purchase this big ticket item for my daughter, then she should get the credit and be every bit as part of this adventure as I was!

On a lovely Saturday afternoon, a few months before prom, the three of us spent the day lunching and shopping as we ooohed and ahhhed over gowns until the perfect one was found.

It was a glorious day.

One of my fondest memories of time spent with my daughter and mom.

Fast forward seven years…and there I was in the dress shop with Megan surrounded by thousands of gowns. We were in Edmonton for Volleyball Nationals and on arriving at our hotel room, looked out the window to discover we were situated directly next door and across the train tracks from the largest prom dress store in all of Canada…so of course, a visit to the shop was quickly added to our weekend plans.

As one dress after the next was tried on…each costing a little more than the next…I felt no fear. No pounding in my chest. No shaking of my hands. No apprehension whatsoever about how I’d be able to afford the dress.

I enjoyed the moment…completely lost in the silk, gems and tulle I was surrounded by.

As Megan stood there in a dress that was absolutely made just for her…fitting her perfectly…I said yes. “I can pay half,” she happily exclaimed…and I agreed. Being that this wasn’t “her” prom, it seemed right to share in the expense but it was the principle…and not the lack of funds in my bank account.

As she stood there…I was aware of the passing of time. I was thinking of my parents, of everything they’ve done to help me through the roughest years of my life both financially and emotionally…of returning to school, of starting my own company…of the hard work that got me from where I’d been…to where I am now.

And I glowed even brighter than my daughter did standing before me.

There’s still a long way to go before I can claim I’m financially independent…I’ve some debt to pay back from years of robbing Peter to pay Paul…I’ve kids in university and a house that I’d like to downsize…there’s a future I need to plan for and money I’ve not yet been able to squirrel away so that I can one day retire.

But for the last number of years I’ve worked hard…I’ve built something from my bare hands that I’m incredibly proud of. I’ve found success.

It hit me…standing in that dress shop…as my daughter looked radiant in the most exquisite dress you could possibly imagine.

And as I smiled at her…

I cried.

7 thoughts on “Shedding tears in the dress shop…

  1. I’m truly amazed at the expense for these nights. I have a boy and a tux will run me 250-350. for a few hours? what kind of message is that giving these kids? It seems like a lot of fluff for 1 night. I know I had my dress made to cut costs. My wedding Dress costs less than the money i’m hearing about. It’s just plain crazy. I don’t get it. 🙁

    • I agree…it’s gotten quite crazy. For my children, there wasn’t such a thing as a Junior High Prom as the school’s principal chose not to participate…but I’ve always been astonished at the Grade 9 “proms” and the fancy dresses worn to those let alone High School! Regardless of my believing whether or not it’s a tremendous cost for one night…it’s a special night for the High School kids and quite honestly, for their parents as well. We do tend to live in a world where it’s “bigger and better” all the time whether it’s what they wear, the sports they take part in, the birthday parties we throw, the concerts they attend, graduation trips, gifts for various occassions that were never “gift” occassions before, …it’s a bit of a vicious cycle. I choose to take part in some of it…other’s I don’t. It’s not easy raising teens through it all.

  2. Colleen, your newsletters take us right to the heart of your stories so we share the tears and the smiles and experiences right along with you. Keep up the great work!