It was a mixed group that gathered in the Polly Hill Arboretum Saturday night about 5:30 p.m. From this aging grandmother to a six-month-old baby boy, and in between stood six lovely teenaged girls in their colorful prom gowns, contrasting shawls, wrist corsages, makeup, and recently done hair styles. As they stood together in front of a blooming rhododendron bush, bookended by two handsome young teenaged boys, Sal and Josh, in black tuxedos — one with a forest green vest and the other with a silver vest — they giggled and posed for their pre-prom photographs. Katie’s Aunt Sarah was her official photographer, but every adult there had a digital camera hanging from a wrist.
The quiet serenity of these beautiful gardens after hours was broken with happy comments and clicking shutters as a dozen proud parents jostled for position to feature their child in dozens of pictures — by themselves, with a best friend, with a date, or with the whole group. Like butterflies they moved from one beautiful flowering tree or bush to another, as they changed positions and partners.
It was a privilege and a pleasure to watch these happy children, on the cusp of adulthood, so excited about spending the evening at the Agricultural Hall with their classmates of many years. Katie Ann had begun her scholastic career in nursery school with Maggie — she had lived next door to Shaelah since their births, two weeks apart, in 1992, and had attended dance school with her best friend Tessa for five years. Meghan and Emily were more recent friends, joined in the high school years, and Katie was about to celebrate one year with her boyfriend, Sal.
At 5 p.m. the eight teens had met at Katie’s house on Panhandle Road, a short distance from Agricultural Hall, and dropped off the casual clothes they would change into after the prom. When they arrived back there from the photo shoot, they went the short distance down the street to the dance. They could have walked to their junior prom! A short while before, a huge off-Island limo had arrived at the hall and disgorged 20 Island teenagers who had all chipped in to hire it.
Prom night regulations are not casual these days. The doors of this year’s celebration opened at 6 p.m. and were locked at 7 p.m. Nobody was allowed in after that hour, and anyone who went out was not allowed back in. Every teen took a breathalyzer test; no liquids could be brought into the hall, and purses had to be very small. A state policeman stood guard outside the hall. The dance was over at 10 p.m.
After a wonderful evening, Katie and her friends went back to her house to change their clothes. Then they went downtown to get a bite to eat, and were home by 12:30 p.m. after a most happy and successful high school junior prom.