During the early afternoon of the other day, while throwing sample papers with Senor Cargador, the subject of proms came up. Our minds wander like that. I told him that while I attended several dances at school and the teen club when I was thirteen in Korea, I wasn’t really a party guy, and so I didn’t go to mine. Oh I had plenty of friends who were girls, and perhaps some of them were wannabes, but I didn’t have a steady partner. Plus, I already knew I was joining the military by then, so I was severely preoccupied by that.
Senor Cargador told me that he did go to his prom. It was in 1965 when he lived in Brentwood, Long Island. The prom was at Huntington Town House in Westbury. He used his brother’s license, borrowed his sister’s car, and took his cousin’s wife. I laughed so hard I almost moved my thumb from the street name on the laminated card I made for all the routes to keep us on track. That’s not a very big deal, but we could have gotten totally lost, even after coming to the next street sign.
He explained that he was eighteen but didn’t yet have his license, and didn’t have a car, and so he borrowed his brother’s license and his sister’s brand new ’65 Plymouth Fury. Then the girl who was going to be his date couldn’t make it on that very day. He felt so dejected that he didn’t want to go. But four friends were counting on him for a lift, so he scrounged around and found his cousin’s wife. The only other thing he remembers about it is that he didn’t want to pay for a tux, so he wore a suit.
I asked him if all that rigmarole was usual? He said yes, that there were plenty of brothers, sisters, and cousins, and they all helped each other like that. After a pause, he said that he was the first of only two out of five brothers to graduate from high school. After another pause, he mentioned that he had failed Spanish, that not only did it sound like a foreign language, but he could never remember to put that squiggly line above the “n” on written tests. I told him I’d heard it was a common difficulty for people who could already speak it, that Spanish from Spain is European, not New World, and that it’d probably be like taking an English class and finding that the teacher only spoke Shakespearean.
Then our conversations varied into tales of Exwork, old movies and TV, the perils of attaching a light kit to a ceiling fan, designing chandeliers, and the latest matches of the wrestler Gary Wolf, known as The Pit Bull. Our minds wander a lot while throwing, or sipping coffee in my garage.
By the way, do you know what prom means? It’s short for promenade – not to be confused with pomenade, which is a summertime drink made of pomegranates.
promenade –n. 1. a stroll or walk, esp. in a public place. 2. an area used for such walking. 3. a march of guests into a ballroom opening a formal ball. 4. a march of dancers in square dancing. (There are more.) [1560 – 70; < F, der. of promener to lead out, take for a walk or airing < L promināre to drive (beasts) forward (prō- PRO-' + mināre to drive; see AMENABLE); see -ADE'] My favorites in the etymology are the words airing and beast. One of my fifteen-year-old grandsons falls into that category. His mother needs to take him out for a promenade before his prom.