Over the weekend I was the adult chaperone for a small masquerade party of teenagers. My recently-graduated son hosted the event, the purpose of which was to offer a safe, fun event for teens from all walks–all schools, multiple ages, multiple backgrounds. So, I took a trip to Goodwill, found a dress, made a mask, donned uncomfortable shoes, and attended the ball. My duty was to make it respectable by overseeing things and to keep the food table stocked, especially the chocolate fountain.
From my corner, I watched. I was amazed by what I saw.
I saw a charming young man ask every girl in the room to dance, especially taking time to draw out the wallflowers. I saw girls smile and relax and take him up on it; insecurities fell away and happy, positive memories were birthed in front of me.
I saw people enter the room who knew only one other person there. That’s bravery of a type I don’t know. I saw others surround the newcomers and laugh on the dance floor with them; by the end I couldn’t remember who’d come alone and who’d known each other forever.
I saw kids from different worlds–home school, public school, private school,
urban, rural–do group dances and laugh so hard they almost fell over. (Apparently background doesn’t matter; everyone in this generation can dance gangnam style.)
I saw my oldest son, who was also a chaperon, krump dance in a suit and vest. If you, like me, have no clue what that means, imagine the motions of an angry oran gutan on speed. The four guys who did it are possibly bonded for life. I hope someone got them on video.
I saw a guy play guitar and sing songs of his own making to this unknown audience, his first real gig, and the audience sat in a circle at his feet and cheered him on. When they all got tired at the end, and he played again, they sang along. When he becomes a known musician someday, we can all say we were there at the start. I hope it encouraged him; I saw potential move one step closer to realization, and it almost made me cry.
I saw the power of liquid chocolate and angel food cake. There is no problem in the world that can’t be solved over the chocolate fountain. A person cannot dip cake in chocolate without smiling. Not once.
I saw two thirteen year-old boys, there for the food, chat in the corner about video games. For four hours. Friendship is awesome.
I saw a group of kids stay until my son had to throw them out, and then they lingered and hugged and said “We have to do this again.” I talked to adults who drove a long way so their kids could attend, and they said the same thing.
I was there as the adult, but they didn’t need me. The guitar player was in high school but as professional as a…professional. The photographer was one year out of school, barely five feet tall, but knew how to boss people around to bring out beauty as she saw it. The host was eighteen years old, but he treated the ballroom hall owners so well one of them hugged me as she left and said dealing with him and this group was a delight.
Teenagers are gems. Some are more polished than others, but I love being part of the events that polish, that let them glow and shine, be it in a class setting where they try something new or at a dance where they risk it all and then catch each other to keep each other afloat.
I know I play a role; they want to succeed in this world, belong, and just a few positive words from us adults, or the simple job of keeping the angel food cake and chocolate flowing, makes them know they’re on the right path and someone cares about them getting there.
So, behind my mask, I smiled a whole lot this weekend and felt, if enough teens turn out like those I watched at the dance, this world has a hope for a pretty fine future.