On prom night, a long white stretch limo pulls up for Marigold.
She’s out playing with Zoey in the pouring rain, jumping in puddles.
“Marigold!” I call. “It’s time! Get cleaned up and dressed for the dance! Your ride is here!”
And a few short minutes later, she races out to the limo, looking like a young rock star.
I lean in through the window.
“Have a great time, dear heart.”
“I will, Mom,” she says. “How much gas do you think this monstrosity will burn on the ride over there? Couldn’t they have just sent a Prius?”
“Try to enjoy the ride, Bunny,” I tell her.
“Would you?” she asks. She knows I wouldn’t.
“Don’t let it ruin your evening!”
She calls me hours later, after the dance is over.
“Mom!” she says over the phone. “I remembered that I left my bike here this afternoon when I took the bus! I’m gonna ride home. I sent that silly limo back to the garage or wherever it came from. I’ll be home soon!”
“Be safe,” I tell her. She’s such a girl after my own heart, riding home in the middle of the night in the pouring down rain.
“Mom! I’m home!” she calls when she makes it back.
“I’m putting Bobobo to bed,” I call from the baby’s room. “I’ll be out shortly and you can tell me all about it!”
Once Bobobo is asleep, I look out the window and see her drinking tea.
“Mari!” I call. “Come tell me about your evening!”
She comes inside.
“So how was it?” I ask.
“It was both the best night of my life and the worst!” she says. “Which do you want to hear about first?”
“Tell it like a sandwich! Start with the good, then in the middle the worst, then finish with another slice of good.”
“The worst in the middle? Like liverwurst, huh?”
“So the first best part is that I have a boyfriend!”
“Well, not really. But a guy that likes me and I like him back. But he’s not really my boyfriend. Just. I don’t know what you call it when you like each other and you both know it.”
“Like a romantic interest?”
“That’s it!” she says. “Or maybe like a mutual crush. His name is Chet.”
I remember Chet from her third grade class. I’ve always liked him and his mom.
“Ready for the slice of worst?” she asks. I nod. “I asked this really cute guy if he’d dance with me. Don’t worry! It was OK. Chet was dancing with this really cute girl. Anyway, the cute guy said no. Oh. I felt so humiliated.”
“That’s OK,” I say. “That happens to everybody sometime.”
“That’s not all,” she says. “Then, this girl came up to me and said, ‘Don’t you dare ask him to dance. He’s with me,’ and I say, ‘It’s free world, dingleberry,’ and she pushes me, and I push her back, and we have a big fight.”
“Oh, man!” I say. “That’s awful! It looks like you didn’t get hurt. Did she?”
“Oh, yeah!” she says. “I really hurt her… PRIDE!” Marigold laughs. “She’s OK. She just got mad and madder. And then everybody started laughing. But that’s not all.”
“Oh, dear. What else?”
“So when we stop fighting I turn around to leave, but somebody spilled some coke and I slip and fall. On. My. Face!”
“Oh, no,” I say. “Are you OK?”
“Total humiliation. But that’s the liverwurst! Ready for the final slice of best?”
I am so ready.
“They voted me Prom Queen,” she beams. “Even though I’m a freshman and all that bad stuff happened. They still voted me queen. And I got a photo, too.”
She pulls out her prom photo.
“Look at you!” I say. “You’re adorable! No wonder you were voted Queen!”
We find a frame and hang the photo on her bedroom wall. I hope she will always remember this spirit: strong, happy, brave, independent, full of confidence and life, ready for the world. That’s Marigold Tea.