“A friend is one who can touch your heart from across the world or across the room.” Anonymous
Annie attended Memminger High School in Charleston, S.C. It was an all girls, public high school that had been established in 1858 and remained that way until 1950, the year that she graduated. It had a six-foot high wall around the school that was supposed to keep the public from watching the young ladies as they received their schooling. In the later years, the boys from Charleston High School (which was the all boys version) as well as Bishop England High School made a practice of sitting on that wall at recess to talk and flirt with all the girls. Many a judge, lawyer, doctor, senator and other men that would go on into all kinds of professions once sat on that wall. For the most part, Annie loved going to school with all girls. The part that she absolutely despised was whenever they had a dance, she would have to invite a young man to escort her. It went against ever core of being in her body. As was such when she was in her eleventh year at Memminger High and it was time for her Junior-Senior Prom. She decided that she would invite a young man who attended Bishop England High School (the Catholic High School). He was a jock, an all round athlete with a terrific sense of humor not to mention he was extremely good-looking. She had been dating Sid for about two months so it seemed rather natural that she would invite him. It took all of the courage that she could muster up to accomplish this task. She must have telephoned him at least 100 times and when he would answer, she would lose her nerve and hang up. Thank goodness there was no caller id back in those days. Finally, she called him and blurted it out when he answered the phone. She thought she heard some hesitation in his voice after she had asked the big question, but he said that he would go with her. As soon as she hung up the phone, she let out shrieks of joy (which her Momma called screeching. Annie, stop that screeching right this minute.). She knew her Momma would not be too pleased as she really didn’t like her to date “those Catholic boys,” She would always tell Annie that they could go to confession on Saturday night and do what they wanted the rest of the week, but what could she do now that she had already invited him?
As predicted, her Momma was not pleased, but she also believed that once you made a commitment, you had to honor it. She made Annie a beautiful white organdy dress that was off the shoulders with a ruffle that went around the top. She hand stitched rhinestones all over it so that it shimmered and caught the light when she moved. The full skirt was held out by her crinoline and hoop skirts. Annie was ecstatic. She loved that gown and felt like a princess wearing it.
Prom night finally arrived. She began to sing in her tuneless voice that she inherited from her Momma as she got ready to get dressed that evening. Her Momma piled her long brown sun streaked hair on top of her head and put a little rhinestone clip in it. She wore her sister’s rhinestone jewelry and she sparkled from head to toe with a smile to match. She was glowing with self satisfaction and was rather pleased with herself when she looked in the mirror. At that moment, she was all about vanity. She thought that she looked like a princess. Mr. Bishop England Jock was due to arrive any minute.
When seven o’clock came around, Sidney did not come. Then came seven-thirty, and still no Sidney. She thought, What in the world could be keeping that boy? Surely, he’s not going to stand me up. Her Momma quickly remarked, “I told you not to trust those Catholic boys. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, they can do whatever they want to all week and go to confession on Saturday.”
Finally when eight o’clock rolled around, Annie felt sure that he wasn’t going to show. She was so hurt and mad as hops that he would do such a thing. She went to her room and the tears began to fall.
At eight fifteen, they heard the doorbell rang. Her Momma told her that must be him now. Maybe he had gotten the time mixed up. But it wasn’t him, it was her good friend, Ruth Gray with her date, Dan Mengedoht. Ruth was wearing a beautiful emerald green gown that matched her eyes and Dan look dashing in his dark suit. She knew it must be bad when her Momma allowed them to come into her room.(which was unbelievable that she let a boy in her bedroom, the sky must be falling.)
“What are y’all doing here?” Annie had been crying and her mascara was running down her cheek. She was in Stood-up Misery Land.
Dan began to explain that he heard that a couple of the basket ball players at Bishop England talking. They had bet Sidney fifty dollars to stand you up. One of those guys wanted you to invite them but said you didn’t give him the time of the day, so it was his revenge.
When he told Annie who it was, she couldn’t even place the guy and didn’t know who he was except by sight. Dan begin to tell her how Sidney was from a really poor family and that money would go a long way to help our his Momma, so he took the deal. He also said that he was surprised that he would do that since he seemed to be a pretty straight up guy.
Ruth told Annie that they had come to get her and wanted her to go to the Prom with them.
“It’ll be fun,” she said. “I’ll share Dan with you.”
“I can’t possibly do that. I don’t want to spoil your fun.”
Dan chimed in, “You’re not spoiling our fun. I have known you since the first grade and so has Ruth. We’ll have a great time. Don’t let those idiots win. I’ve know you have more fight in you that.” (He must’ve remembered the time she bopped him in the head with her penguin lunch box when he was teasing her in the second grade at Crafts School.)
Her Momma agreed with them and insisted that she go with them. After much pleading, she consented to go, but it was Dan’s words that she remembered the most. Annie, you look too pretty to stay home.
She washed her face and reapplied her mascara and away she went.
They were true to their promise and they all had a great time. In fact, it was the best high school dance that she ever attended. As soon as the stag line saw that Annie didn’t have a date, they began to cut in and she danced every dance that night as the silver ball turned overhead. It made the rhinestones on her dress glimmer like moonlight on the ocean as she twirled to the music. She hated to hear the band play, Good Night Ladies, good night ladies, I’m going to leave you now. Everything seemed so magical. A young man from Porter Military Academy who had come stag asked her if he could escort her home. He had called Annie quite a few times for a date prior to the dance, but she always had other plans. But that night, he was her prince charming and she told him that he could. Annie could let Ruth and Dan off the hook.
When she got home and told her Momma about her magical evening, her Momma said that maybe she should stick to those Methodists boys or maybe a Presbyterian or Episcopalian or Lutheran thrown in for good measure might be okay for variety sake.
She saw Sidney a few times after that but he would cross the street when he saw her coming and not make eye contact. Her Momma said he had already gone to Saturday confession and received absolution from the priest and he certainly didn’t need it from her.
Annie has thought about that night many times over the years and how she felt like Ruth’s date was her savior. She would never forget how they threw her a life preserver when she felt like she was drowning. She thought about how great friends they were to come and make her go to that dance with them. She also taught her sons that when they made a commitment to a girl whether they liked it or not, they had to honor it (they would have been grounded until they were 21 if she had ever found out that they stood a date up). Dan had three sisters who had taught him well and trained him to be a Southern gentleman. They taught him to be a kind, loving, thoughtful person and how to treat women and he remained that way all through his life.
She recalled her Momma saying, “I told you not to trust those Catholic boys from Bishop England. Our Methodists boys would never do anything like that.” (little did she know what Methodists boys were capable of.) She always wondered if her Momma knew that Dan was an Episcopalian. Annie didn’t care where he went to church, she just knew he was her hero that night, her savior, and Ruth was her guardian angel. Annie continued to date boys from Bishop England much to her Momma’s chagrin. Annie also forgave Sidney for his actions because she knew that he had done it for his family. She found joy and blessings at that Junior-Senior Prom that she may not have experienced it she had not been stood up although she would never recommend it for any girl. Sidney had kicked her to the curb, but she found violets in the cracks and that was a beautiful thing.