The Prom Proposal- Part Two

I last left you headed off on a mother-daughter weekend with my girl.  I had the letter from her hopeful prom date in my pocket, having only learned few hours earlier of his request for me to have the pilot read the “ask” before take off.  I had also managed to pack each of us into carry-on luggage, with a wee bit of room for new purchases, no small feat.  Check, check, check.  

It was my grande finale of her years at home, my personal gift as a working Mom.  We would unplug, un-encumber, we would laugh and she would meet my eyes again, just like she did when I used to nurse her (that might have been one of the last times.) 

We were on the overnight flight to Paris and would land Thursday morning and hit the ground running with my chum Kerri from London and her daughter.  Shop, eat, walk, sightsee, talk, eat more, shop more, drink some wine and café au lait.  We’d be home by Sunday noon.

There was no way to have anticipated that the weekend would end with a semi-thwarted plan, a few extra days, a husband to the rescue and a body part, left in France…. (cue the scary organ music)

Lessons learned:  buy travel insurance, don’t ever truly unplug — get international phone coverage before you go, and try to speak the language.  More about all of that later. 

Lets start with the prom proposal.  My husband and two girlfriends weighed in that she would be HORRIFIED to have the pilot single her out and raise her hand on the plane.  She is, after all, a 17-year old teenager.  She can barely sit in the front seat without minor embarrassment at my attempts to sing with the radio.  And this when it’s just the two of us. 

Plus—what if they told me they couldn’t do it and she had to switch off her phone immediately for take-off?  The poor date would be left hanging for a six-hour flight.  I revised the plan in a way that was still public-ish but less mortifying.  I would ask the gate agent to call her to the desk on the loudspeaker and then read the sweet prom proposal face-to-face to save her embarrassment.

We were early to the gate and the Air France agent with trendy metallic eyewear was fussing with some phone crisis.  He waved me away, telling me to return in 15 minutes.  Then, double horror, the flight is delayed, indefinitely, for.. yes, my favorite excuse…“technical difficulties.” 

An angry mob of businesspeople with connections and elder-travelers with raised canes swarmed the gate agent who backed away like looters were attacking the storefronts during Hurricane Katrina.  His eyewear was askew. You all know this scene.  Not pretty. 

Rats.  My romantic proposal plot at the gate didn’t have a chance now.  And I was running out of time.  I switched gears again.  Part of my problem, and I don’t mean any offense here, but all of the people I was dealing with were French.  And the French don’t do Prom. So this whole Cinderella proposal that made all Moms knees weak just thinking about it was lost on just about everyone from Air France I came in contact with.  Including the three scowling female gatekeepers of the Air France lounge I querried.  I didn’t get one misty eye or gauzy reminiscent smile out of these folks.  “Didn’t you ever watch “Happy Days” or “The OC?” I wanted to scream.  “What about Beverly Hills 90210?”  Their eyebrows furrowed at my request.

We were rapidly clicking past our original take off time.  I worried the young man would think it was a no-go — she ought to have texted her response by now.  I began to break into flop sweats.  What to do?  We still hadn’t been given a departure time. 

The sweet weekend away kicked off by a surprise romantic proposal was ending up being a little work and pressure on Mom here.  Sheesh — this young man had better keep his hands to himself on prom night, I thought.  I should add here that Bob had already googled him, found out his stats from the football team and announced he was too big to wrestle to the ground.  This size boyfriend would require a weapon.  Only a father thinks like that.

I made an executive decision to find a stranger to read the note.   I began to troll for sympathetic passenger types.  I’d give them the letter and they would walk up to my daughter, read it, surprise her and she could text prince charming.

I spied the only two people that looked like a couple and boldly confirmed that they were parents (so they’d appreciate the importance of this).  So what if he looked like he had been the last dude out of Woodstock, like he’d just walked 5 miles home from a Phish concert?  He and his smiling gray haired hippie wife would have to do.  Everyone else looked—well, kinda French—and I didn’t want to have to underscore the importance of the “prom thing” again.

A quick explanation and he was game.  Five minutes later he walked up and told her he had a message.  Her face turned white and she looked at me searchingly.  He read the letter verbatim, forgetting to edit out the parts the pilot was supposed to say about strapping on seatbelts, etc. 

Her cheeks flushed the ballet pink hue of roses, then turned ketchup color and she looked at me and broke into her signature huge grin.  Then the fingers were off and flying, texting like a court stenographer—more huge smiles, relief, more texts, the one-sided demented laughter we so often see exhibited between people and their personal communications devices in public places. 

But then, the unexpected.  “Mom, you still have to have the pilot read this.”  Say what?

Really? We had totally miscalculated, her father, my Mom friends and I.  She did want the attention. Who can ever figure a teenager out?

“I can’t tell him we didn’t do it,” she said to me, pleading.  “You have to get them to do it the way he wanted it.”  Sigh.  Had I not properly taught her about the intermittent importance of little white lies; about saving face and preserving dignity and the Santa and Easter bunny myths we propagate to prolong the innocence and wide-eyed marvel in the world?  Double sigh.

When we finally boarded the plane I tried vainly to get one of the flight attendants to meet my eye as I stood in the aisle.  They were so busy bustling around, taking coats, prepping the galley or whatever.  I stammered out an explanation to the youngest woman I could find, one who might be closest to the age of groping your boyfriend in the backseat of a Peugot.  After conferring with her team, she told me the pilot was not allowed to read something like this.  “Could you read it?”  I practically pleaded with her.  She would have to confer again.

And here is where I say that if we’d been on Jet Blue or American or United or Continental or you name it, this plan would have worked.  Those American pilots jabber on all the time about how many feet up we are and what kind of geological sediment is in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as we pass over.  They babble in their Good Old Boy Top Gun voices about velocity and temperature and the kind of cloud coverage we’ve got going, and what their bowel movement was like this morning and all of it just as you’ve finally passed out in your seat from exhaustion and the little darling behind you has stopped kicking the back of your chair with his light-up sneakers. 

Those American pilots would have read the prom proposal, I just know it.  It would have been new material for them.

(Honest to goodness I am writing this on a plane to Chicago right now and the pilot just came on to give us trivia about Al Capone’s lawyer.  I kid you not.  Case in point.)

And on an American-based airline?  Those flight attendants would have turned this damned prom proposal challenge into a musical performance of “Lion King,” complete with napkin-art head gear and Radio City Rockette kicks down the aisle.  It would have been heroic.  But we were on Air France.  And the French don’t do proms.

Five minutes later the flight attendant returned shaking her head.  Nada, no can do.  They couldn’t read it on the loud speaker but she was happy to read it to my daughter in her seat.

Somehow a prom proposal read from an aging hippie dad and then heavily French accented, unemotional rushed flight attendant were probably not what her prince charming had in mind.  But the key here, as a mother, is that we tried. 

And as the wheels finally lifted off the runway at JFK and my daughter settled back with a look of satisfaction and good old wonderful smugness on her face, it was worth all the worrying and delays and concern I had about how to make this as perfect as I could.


Next up?  The story of the missing body part and the husband to the rescue.   Stay tuned!



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