Camille had her senior prom last Saturday. She started preparing on Friday when I picked her up at her dad's house and she had her nails done. I had a half pedicure, just my left foot -- my right foot is now safely and securely in a huge boot. The boot is heavy and sturdy, with a thick sole that rocks so I can walk on the foot without bending my toes. My foot wedges deep into thick padding that wraps it in a soft secure hug. I tighten the straps and then push a little pump which adds air -- and my foot is held in a tight embrace. It feels like heaven. I have to wear the boot for six or seven more weeks but right now, I don't care because my toes are so happy when it is on. I can't drive with it on (right foot) and I take it off to sleep, but otherwise it is on all the time.
Camille was thrilled to be driving my car (it is painful for me to drive) and I was thrilled to let her. After getting our nails done, she eased the car onto the freeway and then took it smoothly up the mountain. She decided that she enjoys mountain driving -- the curves and the climb, the beauty of it all.
Saturday morning she had her hair done by our neighbor who has a beauty shop in Laguna Beach, but also has a salon room off of her pool where she works a few days a week. Normally I walk over to her place but it is a very steep, and deeply wooded property. Her horses peacefully graze in a flat area by the road and the house is perched on top of the oak studded hill. I didn't think I could navigate her driveway with my boot, and Camille wanted me along to watch, so Jacquie came and picked us up in her golf cart.
Safely at the top of her hill, we walked past her pool and into the little salon.
Jacquie got right to work on Camille's hair. I sat myself on a stool in the corner and Jacquie's old dog Max settled at my feet.
Jacquie used at least a hundred bobby pins: curling, tying and twisting Camille's hair into intricate artwork on the crown, and then cascading down her back in soft curls.
Camille lives primarily with her father. When the children were young, they split their time between their father's house and mine evenly. He lives in the town where they go to school so they were with him on school nights and with me on weekends, holidays, school breaks and much of the summer. Kyle came up less during his last year of high school -- two weekends a month. Camille is very social and has a large group of friends. During her senior year, she has spent most of her time at her dad's house. There were football games in the fall, beach barbeques and dances to attend. She didn't want to miss a minute of her senior year. She calls me often and we talk about her friends, boys, and school. It has worked well and I treasure the weekends when she does come up and stay, either by herself or with a friend. Aspen Meadows is her retreat when she needs time away from the drama of high school.
After Camille's hair was done, we drove back down the mountain to her dad's house so she could finish getting ready. The original plan was for me to drop her off so she could get ready with her friends, and I would meet her later at the park for pictures. I'm not comfortable going in her father's house and she understands this. The house is full of unhappy ghosts for me and I don't think its been cleaned since I moved out fifteen years ago (okay, slight exaggeration - but only slight). Camille had changed the plan and asked me to come into her room and sit on her bed with my foot up while she got ready. She told her friends she preferred to get ready with me. Her father wasn't at home (but knew I would be there).
I walked into the house and I encountered the familiar musty smell of memories but, surprisingly, they didn't affect me beyond mild interest. I went straight into Camille's room which is very different from the baby girl's room I remember. Her dresser is covered in stickers, the walls are covered in slogans and posters. There were photo collages everywhere and piles of clothes in the closet. I sat happily on her bed for two hours, watching her get dressed, listening to music and talking. She was finished well before it was time to go to the park for pictures so we took a couple in the backyard. I have to admit that being in the backyard was difficult -- far more difficult than being in the house. When I lived there, the backyard was my place of peace and serenity, the place I could escape to and forget about my empty marriage. I spent hours tending the rose garden, the borders full of bright freesias, lilies, daffodils and daisies. I planted and pruned an apple tree, a plum and a pomegranate. I trained berry bushes on the fence and fuschias in the shade. We walked out into the backyard and it was gone. All of it gone. No roses, no birch trees, no silver dollar eucalyptus, no flowers. Just grass, weeds and a huge pomegranate strangling the slope. It cracked my heart to see all the beautiful borders gone. I took a couple pictures of Camille and we left for the park.
I hardly recognized my daughter under all that glamor. At the park, we met up with her boyfriend and the 20 other kids in their prom group. Add in all the parents with cameras and it got crowded. Then two more groups of prom kids plus parents arrived to take pictures and it became chaos. I do not like crowds. The sun was high and hot so I sat on a stone wall under one of the oak trees between shots. I met Camille's boyfriend's mother and we chatted a bit. She is a PE teacher at the high school; tall, slender, beautiful, with long dark hair -- and young. I have always felt old at the kids' school activities because I had my children when I was 32 and 34. I am ten years older than most of the other parents. The photo session lasted an hour and a half and my foot was aching when we finished. There were girls laughing and squealing, parents hovering, mothers sizing each other up, and dad's looking like they wished they were somewhere else.
I took off my boot, eased my foot into a tennis shoe, and drove home. When I pulled into our driveway and opened the gate, I breathed in the mountain air and sighed. I loved the time I spent with Camille and I am so happy she chose to spend the preparation time with me. But, I was also happy to back to the wide open space of home with the soft call of the goats, the clucking chickens, the nicker of the horses and the quiet patio where I rest, read and write poetry.