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When my daughter started looking at prom dresses I was nervous. What if she didn't get asked? Would she be crushed? Maybe it wouldn't be the end of the world -- she could go with a group as they all seem to do these days. But it was her senior year...as a mom I wanted everything to be perfect. And yet with matters of the heart, you really don't have any control.
So I was relieved when I got a phone call from a good friend of my daughter's. The pal wanted to drop off a letter she had helped a young Romeo write. It was an invitation to the prom. But this Romeo, the friend explained, didn't just want me to give the letter to my daughter. He knew I was taking her on a weekend-long trip to Paris (her graduation present) and he wanted me to give it to the pilot to read on the plane. He also wanted it all to happen before the plane took off so my daughter could text him her answer. Even my jaded 50-plus-year-old heart skipped a beat. Not only was my baby girl going to the prom, she was getting a Fantasy Island proposal.
"Will she be happy this guy wants to take her to the prom?" I said, displaying my ignorance about my daughter's social life. "Oh yeah," said her friend. And I smiled. Who doesn't remember the heart-thumping thrill of a boy you like asking you out? There were no words to describe that kind of emotion: It was all tingly nerve endings and butterflies in the stomach.
Still, not everyone thought this loudspeaker proposal was a good idea. My husband, Bob, and my two best girlfriends said my daughter would be horrified to have the pilot single her out. After all, she's a teenager. She gets embarrassed when I sing along with the car radio. So I revised the plan in a way that was still public-ish but less mortifying. I would ask the gate agent to call her to the desk on the loudspeaker and then read the sweet proposal face-to-face.
When we arrived at the Air France gate, an agent with trendy glasses was dealing with a phone crisis. He waved me away, telling me to return in 15 minutes. Then, double horror, the flight was delayed, "indefinitely." A mob of people with connections swarmed the gate agent. Rats. My romantic plot didn't have a chance.
We were rapidly clicking past our original takeoff time. I worried the prom proposer would think his invitation was a no-go -- my daughter ought to have texted her response by now. I broke into a sweat. What to do? We still didn't have a departure time.
I made the decision to find a stranger to read the note. I would give a sympathetic passenger the letter and he would walk up to my daughter, read it and surprise her. Then she could give Prince Charming her answer. I approached the only couple who looked like they were parents. So what if he appeared to have been the last dude out of Woodstock? He and his hippie wife would have to do.
A quick explanation and he was game. Five minutes later he walked up to my daughter and told her he had a message. He read the letter verbatim, forgetting to edit out the bits the pilot was supposed to say about strapping on seatbelts and preparing for takeoff. Her cheeks flushed bright red. She looked at me and broke into a huge grin. And then her fingers were off and flying, texting like a court stenographer.
But then, the unexpected. "Mom, you still have to have the pilot read this." What? Really? We had all totally miscalculated. She did want the attention. "I can't tell him we didn't do it," she said. "You have to get them to do it the way he wanted." Sigh.
When we finally boarded the plane I tried vainly to get one of the flight attendants to meet my eye as I stood in the aisle. I stammered out an explanation to the youngest flight attendant I could find, one who still might recall the excitement of her own first slow dance. After conferring with her team, she told me the pilot was not allowed to read something like this. "Could you read it?" I begged her. She would have to confer again. Five minutes later the flight attendant returned shaking her head. Non, no can do. They couldn't read it on the loud speaker -- but she could read it to my daughter in her seat.
Somehow a prom proposal read by an aging hippie and then by a flight attendant with a French accent was probably not what her date had in mind. But the key was we tried. And as my daughter settled back in her airplane seat with a look of satisfaction on her face, I knew it was well worth all the scheming I had gone through to make this proposal as perfect as possible.
Lee Woodruff is a contributor to CBS This Morning. A version of this essay first appeared on leewoodruff.com, her blog. It made us smile so much we had to pass it along.