Sunday, July 25, 2010

Debutante Ball

Last October 5th, I was sitting in this same spot the morning after the most perfect wedding imaginable sending text messages to a friend and writing about the night before. In one of the text messages my friend asked if I had by chance checked my mail since I was questioning something she referenced that puzzled her. It was a Sunday morning...and I with all of the activity the previous day...I hadn't made time.

My curiosity got the better of me and I trudged to the mailbox to see what could possibly be waiting for me there. I honestly had no idea. Then I placed my hand on the usual...the ads, junk mail, bills, and envelope.

An envelope inviting my daughter to join the 2010 Southern Debutante Cotillion. She was selected and I was stunned but grateful. That day was nine and a half months ago...and the "big day" to which it referred...was two days ago. But over those months we were given us something to look forward to...something to dream about. Because I don't care what anyone says...there is an element of magic anytime that we put on formalwear.

Even if that formalwear is magically enhanced by Spanx in the female 39 and holding set. It matters not.

The hunt for a dress was the first consideration. The only requirements Jill had were that it be simple, full, and free of the possibility of failure to maintain its proper it was strapless. She found the dress with little ado, and with no alterations required. We considered both of these to be minor miracles. She was also grateful that it still fit eight months after it was purchased.

Later, the choice of an escort and a guest list came into play. She asked a young man from high school who had always been a friend...and a lot of fun. The guest list was primarily comprised of her college were most everyone else's.

As the date drew near, the logistics of managing college kids in a hotel, providing transportation, and feeding them became a little bit of a challenge. Once we worked out getting them really was no trouble at all...and thankfully, there were no "Debzilla" incidents to report.

Two of my sweet friends sent Jill flowers on Wednesday with a message on the card that read "Can't wait to see our beautiful daughter Friday night." A white basket with a hot pink ribbon, green button mums, white hydrangea and sweetheart roses and pink roses. I love my friends for thinking to add that special touch.

The morning of the ball, the mothers and daughters went to the Montgomery Country Club for brunch. The food was beautifully prepared...fruit salad, chicken crepes, asparagus, broiled tomato half, an assortment of breads, and a dessert of key lime pie. The tables were beautifully adorned, we were elegantly served (I recognized our waiter as a bartender later that night...he obviously had a long day), and the flowers that were leading up to to the ballroom were already in place.

The flowers were blush pink roses with gorgeous white hydrangeas, and blue and purple flowers intertwined with greenery. The effect was simply stunning. A small table was outside the doorway to the Beauvoir Room with a framed copy of the luncheon invitation, and a silver tray for nametags. There was a sense of excitement in the the twenty-three beautiful debutantes and the rest of us took our places at the round tables festively adorned with small floral masterpieces.

After introductions, some last minute details were attended to and after lunch, the girls were taken upstairs for a preview of the rehearsal that would include their fathers and escorts at 6:30 that night. The girls received lessons in how to curtsey - which is apparently a time honored tradition for southern belles-to-be.

Soon afterward, the guests began to arrive in town from points all over the South. Food was brought in, last minute issues were resolved and everyone was accounted for. Even challenges such as an unexpected gulleywasher an hour and a half before the Ball, stopped traffic due to an accident that almost made everyone late, folks arriving from Tuscaloosa (two hours away) after moving out of their apartments at 4:00 that afternoon, an escort who had overslept and had lost his cell phone, "deb hair nightmare" that ended up being converted into something beautiful, a heat index of 107 and some missing cufflinks were all overcome. Thankfully. I'm sure that there was more drama, but this was all that I was made aware of at least.

After the rehearsals, photos, and some food was provided to the debs, fathers, and escorts, the dispensory of liquid courage opened to the relief of everyone who was trying to remember such concepts as "keeping the arms in a 'V'", curtseying with all eyes upon them, gliding instead of speedwalking, not tripping on the steps or the edge of the dance floor, and remaining still while Dad walked around them in a circle. And of course...remembering the gloves.

Before the presentation, the crowd grew in anticipation of seeing the beautiful girls presented. Eventually, the doors closed, after a reprieve of fifteen minutes granted for weather related slowdowns, and the first debutante appeared on the stage.

The presentation flowers were all on a table...nosegays of blush roses, hydrangeas and white and purple flowers. They certainly looked lovely carried by the girls as they stood under an arch adorned by similar flowers spotlighted in their dresses at presentation time.

The dresses and hairstyles chosen were as unique as each of the girls. All were white with flourishes of bows, rhinestones, or lace. Some looked like brides and others like fairy princesses. All were beautiful. Each wore long gloves and most wore pearls. Hair was either swept into an up-do, curled, or otherwise manipulated. Jill chose to wear hers down...which suited her and made her feel more like herself. I thought that she made the right decision for her...and frankly, that's all that really mattered to me.

Jill wanted a simple dress that fit her properly and had a little volume around the skirt. there was a rhinestone clasp on her left side and there was some tulle in part of the skirt. It was perfect for her. In my opinion, she is so beautiful that she really didn't require any other adornment. But then again...I might be a little biased.

Because the girls were called alphabetically, she was presented just between her two sorority sisters and last year's roomates, Emily and Haley. Three beautiful Phi Mus all in a row.

After the presentation, the room was crowded with people who wanted to speak to the debutantes and families for a few minutes before the band jumped into high gear. Out of Jill's graduating class of approximately 75, at least half were in attendance as guests of the various girls. I know this because I hugged the majority of them. She bounced from her duties as hostess to her group of out of town guests to various friends that she had not seen for the first hour after the presentation. She spent the remainder of the evening on the dance floor having a lot of fun and dancing right in front of the band. From my vantage point on the sidelines, she didn't sit down all night.

There is something just completely fun about watching college kids with a live band. I spent time with my friend watching everyone dance and feeling like I was in the middle of a fraternity formal. The dance styles varied from swing dancing to a couple that completely mezmerized me. They were on the far side of the floor and were taking up a considerable amount of real estate with dancing that closely resembled something that might be seen on the National Geographic Channel with a headdress of some kind. Another group of girls were giggling wildly and often and dancing around like I imagine they did when they were little girls. Except that they were in heels and cocktail dresses.

I loved the band...and the music they were playing. One of Jill's guests was kind enough to ask me to dance...although I do not dance well. I was struggling to swing dance, keep my straps on the dress up (to avoid a Janet Jackson moment) and not run over the gazillion kids out there on the dance floor. However, he survived "Mustang Sally" and me, and I will always hold him in high regard for being kind enough to twirl me around a bit.

I wandered back into the room next to the dance floor a few times for more Diet Coke and one time saw several of Jill's guests "chillin'" when I heard the opening chords of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me." I just couldn't have that...and shooed them onto the dance floor. My friend and I then proceeded to sing on the edges of the floor...and likely became somebody's "these Moms were like TOTALLY overserved..." moment. Oh well. Being jacked up on Diet Coke because you haven't had caffeine since March is forgivable, I suppose. As is (I hope) knowing all of the words to that song.

The band played on, and the crowd began to thin. The bar closed. The ball ended. It was a long but wonderful, enchanting, and special night.

Outside the transport vehicles lined up, and at a Microtel across town, the unfortunate folks who were booked in rooms near 215, 216 and 217 were probably calling the front desk. No, not really. By that time, everyone was pretty much ready to go to sleep I'm sure. Yeah, right...

Now that it is over, I have a lot of happy memories. I was not able to invite everyone that I wanted there because that would have started a string of invitations that I couldn't afford. My friends hopefully understand that. My family did. We wanted the night to be special for Jill and to include the people who provided her immense and unwavering support...and her best least the ones who would enjoy this kind of thing. I think that this was accomplished, and hope that anyone who was left out or felt slighted by not being included will understand what our priorities were.

We were honored to be among the debutantes selected, and were so excited that so many people altered their schedules to make it happen.

The debutante tradition began to present young women of marriageable age to polite society. I have to admit that seeing all of those beautiful girls in white dresses did make me realize that the next time I see my beautiful daughter and husband attired in a similar fashion will be the day that we give her away.

And that thought - is enough to make me grateful that we are not quite there yet. Time flies by quickly enough as it is. I'll just enjoy my memories of a hot summer night in July when my baby girl curtseyed holding her Daddy's hand while everyone politely applauded. It was truly an amazing night.

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