Jul 16, 2013 24 Share

A Corsage for Caroline


Close-up of girl's hand with wrist corsage.
iStockphoto

“I have a girlfriend,” Mickey announced.

“You do?” I said. “Tell me about her.”

 “She doesn’t talk much,” he said. “She’s shy.”

I’d heard about her a few weeks earlier, when his teacher Jackie had emailed me about the friendship that was blossoming between Mickey and the girl in the classroom next door. 

Caroline goes on a daily walk on the bike path and I have been letting Mickey go with her to offer encouragement—he quite enjoys this … I have  to tell you that his mental demeanor is so improved when he gets that physical exercise—and it boosts his self esteem, too, because he thinks he is helping Caroline.  

Soon after, Jackie emailed me this news: 

Just letting you know that Mickey asked his friend Caroline to the prom today … We will find out what color her dress is in case Mickey wants to get her a corsage.

 “Oh my. I think I need a tissue,” I told my friend Beth.

“Are you kidding? I’d need a whole box,” she said. “This is a monumental milestone moment.”

I phoned the florist. The afternoon before the prom, I took Mickey to the shop. With a big smile, the florist produced a small white box. Carefully the man peeled back layers of tissue paper to reveal a wrist corsage of rosebuds and ribbons nestled within. Mickey peered at it silently.

 “She’ll love it,” the florist assured him.  

Mickey nodded. All business, he pulled out his wallet. “How much does it cost?”

“Thirty-five dollars.”

Mickey placed two 20 dollar bills on the counter. He remembered to wait for his change. Then, as we walked back to the car, he confided, “I hugged Caroline today.”

 “You did? What did she say?”

“She said, ‘I love you.’”

Really,” I said, feigning nonchalance. “And what did you say?”

“I said,’ I love you too.’”

Oh my.

The prom took place in the school’s gym. Students were decked out in their party best. Parents were invited too. “But we shouldn’t hover,” I reminded my husband Marc. (A reminder to me as well.)

We watched from the sidelines as Mickey and Caroline clasped hands. Together they jumped up and down, with looks of sheer joy on both their faces. Each time he took her by one hand and twirled her around, teachers and staff applauded. Marc and I kvelled—a Yiddish word that means to burst with pride and pleasure for one’s child. It’s related to the German word quellen: “to well up.”

Which I confess I was also doing. A lot.

Because here’s the thing: I never expected him to go to a prom. Prom was one of so many things in the litany of what we were told he would never be able to do. He would never be social. Never have empathy. Would always prefer solitude.

Why do professionals persist in telling these things to parents? Especially when it was clear—even from the earliest days—that our son liked—in fact, craved—connection? 

Yet here he was, at a prom. With a date. Maybe “prom” didn’t look the way I thought prom would look, but this wasn’t about me. It was time for me to let go of any lingering regret for what wasn’t—and to accept what was right in front of us. This was still a prom. His prom.

And Mickey was incandescent.

Mickey and Caroline jumped and twirled for 45 minutes before Mickey finally joined us to announce: “I’ve had enough.”

“You need to tell Caroline,” I told him. I watched him return to her side. He hugged her gently. Started back towards us. Stopped. Turned. Hugged her tenderly once more.

Then he asked his Dad, “Was that appropriate?”

A lump-in-the-throat moment. That he felt he had to ask … well of course. Because for most of his life he’s had teachers and therapists and parents guiding him on what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Appropriate?

Was it ever.



Comment Options

Anonymous

congrats to your son

i am so very happy from Mickey (and you & your husband) my son is DD and is due to graduate this coming year... i have great hopes for his senior year. i want him to have everything that all the other kids have, and enjoy it the way most do. I hope he finds a connection like the one between mickey & caroline, ar atleast a friend who he can enjoy his prom with. i worry since he seems attracted to mainstream girls, and older girls beyond school age, but they dont see him that way (so far anyway). I am sure it wil be a wonderful time for him either way, but the prom date will help to make it a lifelong memory. 

Anonymous

Love your column!

Very sweet story!  I'm very happy for your guy and you.  How nice to see your child having such a wonderful time  doing something that we all, as parents of ASD kids, hope to see our kids do as well.  I'm so glad he and his girlfriend had such a good time.  I'm sure you are so very proud and happy!! Here's to the next dance or "date"!!   

Anonymous

love this story!!! my son has

love this story!!! my son has Downs and he went with a friend to prom. 

Anonymous

a corsage for caroline :)

Looking forward to this day in my beautiful Alicia's life. Thank you so much for sharing!!

Anonymous

Oh My!  Liane, this is so

Oh My!  Liane, this is so beautiful and I am so happy for your son (and your family).  I shed a few happy tears! All the best, Nancy

Anonymous

Just lovely

Thank you for sharing....  

Anonymous

Totally appropriate

This was just lovely. And sums up what we want for ALL of our children, whether they are children or adults. We want them to love and be loved and to do things like their peers and ENJOY life. Sounds like MIckey is right on track.

Anonymous

awesome

awesome

Anonymous

Wonderful!

Yes I cried, oh did I cry. Prom is also one of those things that our son is supposedly not going to be able to participate in. This gives me hope. Thank you for sharing this lovely story. 

Anonymous

Corsage for Caroline

Thank-you for sharing this story and giving those of us with kids on the spectrum under 10 even more hope for the future!My daughter also craves connection, can be empathetic and is intensely cuddly 

Anonymous

Thank you

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am so happy for all of you. You captured this all so beautifully.

Anonymous

Liane, It's amazing how your

Liane,
It's amazing how your writing makes me laugh and cry at the same time!! This was just lovely...

Anonymous

You brought tears to my eyes,

You brought tears to my eyes, too.

Anonymous

LUV,LUV, LUV!!!!! What a

LUV,LUV, LUV!!!!! What a wonderful and memorable Prom for Mickey (and of course you and Marc)!!!!!

Anonymous

Liane- this is absolutely

Liane- this is absolutely beautiful. It's so nice to read a feel good story for a change. Congratulations on this "monumental milestone moment." 

Anonymous

the prom

Liane, That is just a wonderful story. To those of us who have kids with autism - we get it. To those who don't I think they can at least guess what it is like to spend so many years trying to teach social skills to our kids and how the everyday things average kids do are not a given for our kids.So glad he had a great time ! 

Anonymous

Prom

So sweet. Tissues!

Anonymous

I'm so happy for Mickey and

I'm so happy for Mickey and his parents. Liane has "proved" the professionals wrong. What strength and determination she has demonstrated!

Anonymous

Love this!

Liane, thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story about Mickey's prom.  I am so glad he had such a wonderful experience and hope that he continues to have opportunities to see Caroline!  - Sandi Rosenbaum

Anonymous

Mickey's prom night

This absolutely brought tears to my eyes.  So beautiful.

Anonymous

Beautiful

Just lovely. I am moved to tears, both for the moments you shared and the moments you thought you would never see. So proud of Mickey, he is an amazing young man.

Anonymous

What a night to remember!

What a night to remember! Congratulations! 

Anonymous

Tihs is gorgeous!! I had the

Tihs is gorgeous!! I had the biggest smile on my face. It's so funny but for some reason yesterday your son and his prom entered my mind and I had wondered how it went!! So happy to read this!! You reall got me with your son asking his dad if he was appropriate!! Thank you so much for sharing this!!  

Anonymous

Beautiful piece. I'm so glad

Beautiful piece. I'm so glad your son got to experience this milestone - and may there be many more. I'm kvelling for you! xo