I was so excited, I thought I would bust.
It was the fall of 1971 and my school was having a dance.
Now, in a typical home, it would have been no big deal, but in a Baptist minister’s home? It was a big deal.
My dad had been raised in an overly devout Christian home where dancing was “of the Devil”, so I never had the opportunity to get my deep-seated ballet and tap-dancing yearnings out of my soul and had actually resorted to putting on my patten leather church shoes and dancing on mom’s coffee table, thereby ruining the wood’s finish.
So when I asked if I could go to the dance, dad immediately said, no. But he hadn’t counted on my mom.
My mother has always been beautiful, loving, gifted and sometimes sneaky. She reminded my dad that she met him for the first time at a dance and said something about how I would hold it against him forever if he didn’t let me go, and suddenly I was given permission.
Since everything was going so well in my little world, I should have known that something would upset the apple cart. It did. His name was Johnny Pollard.
I was planning my “cool” dance outfit that would meet the criteria for a rather lousy garage band in the school gym when the phone rang. Unfortunately, my mom was in the kitchen and answered the phone. It was Johnny Pollard.
Horror of horrors, Johnny was asking me to the dance. I stood there like a deer in headlights, staring at my mom who was looking back at me with her big, brown, guilt-producing eyes. She whispered, “Don’t hurt his feelings.”
Filled with dread, and with no excuse, I said yes to Johnny Pollard.
I was a foot taller than Johnny and outweighed him by 25 pounds (I was on my way to becoming a heifer like my Scottish ancestors). He was the size of a gnat, had short, very curly blond hair, buck teeth, and coke bottle glasses. He was the butt of jokes by bullies and quite geeky. He had developed a terrible crush on me and constantly wrote me notes. He drove me up the wall.
Officially, this had turned into the worst day of my life, or so I thought at the time (I had a lot of worse days coming). Regardless, I was dreading the entire experience.
Johnny showed up at my house with a corsage and with his dad driving us in an old blue station wagon. My humiliation knew no bounds. I sat as close to the car door in the back seat with Johnny as I could possibly get. The shape of my elbow is probably still imprinted on the arm rest.
Things got better at the dance. He went his way over with his friends, and I went over with mine…typical middle school behavior. As far as I could tell, no one else had brought a date, just Johnny, and thankfully, the music was so loud I couldn’t hear the gossip and teasing.
Later, Johnny’s dad picked us up and took us back to my house. Johnny got out and raced around the car to open my door. But something strange happened before the door opened.
Politely, I thanked Mr. Pollard for the ride, and he turned and looked at me oddly. With his mouth, he said, “You are welcome,” but his eyes were saying something different. I was puzzled.
I got out of the car and Johnny walked me to the door. I was prepared to slug him if he tried to kiss me, but he just said bye and ran back to the car.
It wasn’t until I became a parent that I finally understood Mr. Pollard’s facial expression that night. While he said, “You are welcome for the ride,” what his face was really saying was “Thank you.” “Thank you for not embarrassing my son…thank you for not hurting his feelings…thank you for helping him feel like a big man in front of the other kids…thank you for making this a memorable evening for him.”
I finally understood Mr. Pollard’s expression 20 years later.
Not that I am anywhere near to being a beauty queen, but looking back I realized that I had made that boy’s day, maybe his year. I gave him a good memory he hopefully carried for a long time. For some reason, he thought I was a goddess (he needed new glasses), and now, years later, I am happy that I made a young boy’s dream come true, at least for one night. I will always be glad I went to the dance with Johnny Pollard.
Maybe a mom’s guilt isn’t such a bad thing after all. Some parents really do know best.
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