Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 7, 2010
Energized and enchanted
By the end of the school year, teachers and students alike tend to be running on empty. So a day such as April 24 was not what the doctor ordered.
Daughter Katie's day began somewhere around 5:30 a.m. She had to be at the school by 6:30 to board the bus for the 90-mile trip to Southeast of Saline High School. She had received high marks at the district competition a few weeks earlier and had qualified to sing at the state solo and small ensemble festival.
I would like to say my day began at the same time, but Mom had gone into the hospital a day earlier, so I was awake off and on during the night wondering how the tests would turn out.
Not that I had any reason to complain. Katie was among those who had spent hours decorating the school Thursday and Friday for the junior-senior prom and after-prom scheduled for Saturday night.
Some music contestants finished early in the day, but Katie wasn't so lucky. Her solo was at 4:45 p.m. When it was over, she, husband Art and I rushed straight to the car. She changed from her performance clothes in the back seat.
Older sister Mariya and her partner Lacey were waiting at their apartment, primed to help Katie with her hair for the prom. It didn't go well, so Lacey's work colleague Ashley was called in to lend a hand. After many bobby pins and much hair spray later, Katie was ready to put on her dress.
But there was no longer enough time to eat out with date Brian and their other friends, so he made a quick trip to McDonald's. Katie gobbled her sandwich on the way to the hospital to visit Mom, who was thrilled by their unexpected arrival.
Katie and Brian were among the last couples to go through "Promenade" - where couples are announced to the crowd - in the south gym. But they didn't seem the least-bit disappointed. They had told me at the hospital that even if they missed promenade, the fact that they saw Mom in the hospital would be a good memory, too.
When I entered the school, I felt like I was in a different world. The south gym had been transformed into a garden with twinkly lights and plants lining the pathways and bridges. The north gym was like a carnival with an inflatable obstacle course, an inflatable boxing ring, games, prizes and other activities. And the cafeteria - decorated with an "Enchanted Moonlight" theme - had a cave, rocks, a waterfall, white netting and blue lights on wispy trees.
"I liked the fact that you couldn't tell it was the cafeteria," Katie told me. "You couldn't even tell where you were in the school at all."
I had to agree. As I wound around the pathways, I almost felt like I was in the "Avatar" movie, which was the idea the kids were going for.
And it wasn't just the school that had been transformed. The students, too, had gone from normal teenagers to elegantly-dressed young men and women decked out in tuxes and fancy gowns.
After our tour, Mariya and friend Nick dropped me off at home. But my day wasn't over. I had volunteered to help at after-prom, which ends in the wee hours of the morning. What had I been thinking!
So at about 11 p.m., when Art headed for the bedroom, I got back into the van to return to the school.
I arrived in time to see the last few dances of the prom and to help set up the after-prom food table. A few students were seated, but most danced right up until the end. I was amazed at their energy.
That energy didn't end when prom was over. The kids changed into comfortable clothes and immediately zeroed in on the food, which included pizza, luncheon meats, cheese, cheese pretzel poppers, chicken nuggets, veggies, crackers, chips and dip, cookies, brownies, puppy chow and soda.
Then they literally began bouncing off the walls of the inflatable obstacle course and inflatable boxing ring. After awhile, they calmed down a bit and waited patiently as the names of every junior and senior were called to receive the mini-refrigerators, scanners, microwaves and other items donated by local businesses and individuals.
But to my surprise, rather than nodding off as I had expected, I felt energized and enchanted by the young people and everything that surrounded me. So I guess you never know. I had begun by dreading the day and ended up enjoying it completely.
But the next day, well, that's another story!
Left, Ashley works on Katie’s hair as Lacey watches; middle, Brian and Katie visit
Mom in the hospital; right, after-prom participants enjoy one of the inflatable toys.