Kiki came home smiling. The boy walked her to the door, both to say goodnight and to retrieve his suit jacket which she was still wearing. She gave him the jacket and apologized for the silver glitter stuck to it. Her shining dress had an infinite supply of sparkles to shed on every surface it touched. He assured her that he didn’t mind and gave her a hug goodnight. The door closed behind him and my daughter’s first formal dance was done.
“Can you help me take down my hair?” Kiki asked slumping on one of our kitchen stools.
“Sure.” I answered. I stood behind her and pin by pin removed the twists and curls I’d helped her put up only a few hours before.
My mind was aswirl with memories of my own formal dances, times when I got to wear a boy’s suit jacket, lovely dances, awkward dances, dates in which the whole evening was like flying, and dates which ended in tears. Formal dances are fraught with possibilities both good and bad. I wanted to know which sort of experiences had come to my daughter. I hoped for her to have happy ones. Yet I was strongly aware that these were her experiences, not mine. They were hers to share or to tuck into her heart like treasures. All these thoughts, hopes, fears distilled themselves into bland words.
“It looks like your hair stayed put.” I said
“Yeah.” I was surprised.” Kiki answered. “It even stayed when I flipped it around.”
I pulled out the last pin and Kiki’s long curls tumbled down her back. Those curls represented thirty minutes of effort, mousse, and hairspray.
“Sounds like you had fun.” I said.
“I did. But the dance was loud and crowded.” Kiki smiled, then slumped forward to rest her head on her arms.
I smiled and ran my fingers through her hair, freeing it from its twist. What ever difficulties or awkwardness attended the evening I could tell they had passed, leaving Kiki with an exhausted contentment. I breathed thoughts of gratitude to the boy who’d helped make the loud and crowded dance a good place for my daughter. She generally avoided noisy crowds. I also sighed relief that this date had gone so much better than the one last Fall with a different boy. That one had been filled with stress and awkwardness in larger measure than enjoyment.
Kiki and I walked together up the stairs. She was too tired to talk much. I helped her change out of her fancy dress and into pajamas, just as I used to help her change when she was little. One last cloud of glitter drifted to the floor as I hung it up. After an evening dressed up and grown up, Kiki was glad to come home and be young again.
I was glad to have her home too. That final waiting hour before she walked in smiling had not been hard or worrisome, just aware. My daughter would be home soon. Then I would know what sort of an evening she’d had. During that waiting hour, Howard and I stood in the kitchen together, participating in the parental cliche of waiting up for a child who is out on a date. We were waiting to see the results of this small flight into independence. Her flights will take her higher and farther. Before long our house will become a place she visits instead of the heart of her existence.
At quarter to midnight our patience ran out. Howard sent her a text.
“Tick. Tick. Tick…”
We laughed as we sent it, enjoying the irony of Howard pretending to be an over-bearing, curfew-demanding father, when we knew it was unnecessary. We had not set a hard curfew and she would be home as soon as possible after the dance. We trusted her. If something had gone wrong she would have called for rescue. Yet there was a core of truth to the text too. We wanted our daughter home so we could lock her safe inside, so we could sleep easy.
Howard’s phone chimed with an answering text.
We laughed. She was fine, humor intact. She entered, smiling, only a few minutes later.
I tucked the pajama’d Kiki into bed and Howard delivered our cat to sleep with her. I walked through the house once more before turning out the lights. Silver glitter sparkled on the kitchen floor, like dust from a vanished fairy. I turned out the lights and all was well.