Back in October, I wrote a post called “Haunted Homecoming.” In it, I was struggling to come to terms with CJ’s peculiar popularity, which has taken him places in the high school hierarchy that most of us could only dream of when we were 18. I watched him hover around the Homecoming King and Queen that night, inside the group but a million miles away at the same time. And it hurt.
Since then, CJ has been hanging out with friends through the Best Buddies program. Best Buddies is an organization that pairs typical students with special needs students. During the year, they eat lunch together and spend time together. Typical kids spend time with the special students and everyone’s horizon grows. It has resulted in some incredible relationships for some families I know.
CJ’s school started a Best Buddies program a while ago. The program creates opportunities for the buddies to do some of the same things every other student does. For example, right now they are having a Walk-a-Thon to raise money and they’ve asked each student to try to raise $50. In less than 2 weeks, CJ has raised over $300. He is the highest on his team so far.
Tonight…was the Best Buddies Prom.
I thought it was just for his school. At first, I was just confused. I know what “Prom” looks like. I had no idea what “CJ’s Prom” was supposed to look like.
I knew he would never wear a shirt and tie. So, I ordered a green novelty t-shirt online with a tux jacket and tie printed on the front of it. He always wears green shirts anyway, and this way he would be in a “tux”. I knew the kids at school would love it. I celebrated my cleverness online with friends.
Then I found out that the event won’t be at his school. Instead it’s at the local Shrine Temple. Okay….
Also, it’s not just going to be his school It’s going to be kids from all over our area. Ah. It’s one of THOSE events. I have seen photos of other people’s kids at these functions. They all wear shirts and ties and even jackets. NOW WHAT?
Even my husband said that he could not wear the t-shirt, and that’s saying something. So off to the store with CJ. Joy. Shopping with CJ is like shopping with any boy who hates to shop, but really really magnified. I make him try on A shirt. One. Fortunately, I found a green one. I then find a tie that matches. I would have then celebrated my cleverness online with friends, except it is going to take an Act of God to make him wear this getup.
It seemed premature.
Last night was The Night. We started getting ready hours early. I got him to take a shower. I shaved him. Remember about trying not to cut a moving object? I rock. No blood drawn tonight! It takes 20 minutes to get him in his pants, belt, socks, shoes, and shirt. I even got the shirt tucked in. I made my husband tie the tie on himself before he went to work, as I haven’t tied a tie since it really mattered, which I think would have been my wedding, and maybe not even then. I didn’t even try to get the tie on CJ. It went in my purse for the future battle in the parking lot at the Shrine Temple.
It is not hot here in Florida right now, but by then, I was sweating like I had been working out, which in a way, I was. To escalate the entire traumatic process, I insisted on taking photos at each step. I decided that it would be funny to have a step-by-step of the torture I was inflicting on him.
I think I really do have an evil streak. Like any good parent.
The whole way there he asks me which way we are going. Do we turn here? Which direction now? I keep taking deep breaths. He wants to know what time I am picking him up. He wants to make sure they know how to reach me. Will I be waiting in the parking lot? I assure him that I know how to get there and continue to give him the next turn over and over. I explain that of course, they will want my number. I promise to be there right at 9 PM.
It was CJ’s brand of nervous, but I realized he was nervous about Prom. Like any high school kid.
We get there and have the “you HAVE to wear the tie” fight in the parking lot. I finally get it on him. We compromise by leaving the top shirt button unbuttoned. I just leave the tie a little loose. And Lo! and Behold! He looks good! I mean really good. Almost normal good. And that’s really good! I am so relieved. As we walk in, all the men are wearing ties and several are wearing jackets. Everyone looks fabulous. The girls are all done up with dresses, hair and make up. This is a real prom. We see several friends of his from other schools that he knows from baseball. We even see his favorite friend. I am relieved. CJ is relieved. In fact, I can’t even find him now. I’m the mom with the camera and I wanted a picture of him with his friend. Oh well, maybe when I pick him up.
We get to the front table and they have him sign in. There are blanks for name, school, etc. He walks up and signs a huge “CJ” in the middle of the page. They look a little taken aback. Secretly, I like his approach, but I walk up and shrug and sign him in correctly. But wait a second. There is no place for contact information. ???? Beg Pardon? I was then told that this was Prom. No parents allowed. There was a “lounge” over there for parents to wait in. Wait for 3 hours? No thank you. I made dinner plans.
Just before I left, I tell them that he is very concerned that they know how to reach me. Doesn’t he know my number? Ah, no. No, he does not. They direct me to the woman in charge who takes my information. I get temporary “mom with camera” permission to go into the room and take some pictures. Inside, I am greeted by a beautiful young lady who is taking photos with CJ. She informs me that she is the buddy from his school. My internal jaw drops. She says that she loves him and is always trying to get him to look at her, but he won’t. I explain that he literally can’t look at pretty girls. The prettier they are, the worse it is. She is happy to take my number and promises to call if he has any problems. I think I may have influenced her.
At 6:15, I happily go off to dinner, feeling things are far better than they could have been and sure that CJ will have a good time.
At 8:15, as I am leaving dinner, my phone rings. It is a buddy from his school. CJ is ready to leave. Seriously? Wait! I have 45 more minutes. I beat down my internal timekeeper with a sigh and tell them I am on my way. I am really disappointed. If he’s calling me to pick him up 45 minutes early, he must have had a tough time.
I walk in expecting to see him miserable. Instead I see him dancing with a gorgeous blonde girl in a pink dress. I walk up and he introduces me (he has to ask her name first). She does not go to his school, but was having a great time dancing with him. I thank her, blinking a bit at her pink blonde gorgeousness. And then CJ’s buddy from his school comes running up to me. She is practically bursting with excitement, exclaiming that she took photos for me. I…thank you. I ask her to send them. She keeps talking…a lot…something about the crown and the queen and the photos she took. Now I am confused. She is going to send me lots of photos of two kids I don’t know and haven’t met? Then she looks at CJ, and back at me and says “He is the King!”
Wait. What? WHAT???? How many Kings are there? Is there one per school? One for the special needs kids and one for the typical?
No. There is one King. ONE KING.
CJ IS THE PROM KING!!!!!
Now, I am shaking. I am confused. How did this work? How did they pick him? Who picked him? She had no idea. She said that he was having such a good time that they must have just wanted him to be king.
I have no idea who “they” are, and at this point, I don’t care.
I am trying to not cry as he leaves me standing there. He is the King. He is done. It’s time to hit the road. He tries to leave immediately while I am still standing there in shock, but they have stationed a guard at the door. This poor guy’s job is to block the kids trying to leave without their parents. CJ, however, got right by him. And then we have the guard running toward the exit door, trying to stop The King from leaving the building. CJ was bigger then this guy. He kept telling the guy that I was coming. Of course, the guy didn’t know if that meant “right behind me” or “an hour from now.” Finally the poor guy saw me in the hallway and was so relieved.
I am just trying to get out of there without breaking down.
We got to the car and CJ wanted to know what was wrong. Was I mad at him? What did he do? Who upset me? I was shaking and still trying to not cry. I called my mom to tell her. I couldn’t even get the words out. I started crying and had to wait to calm down enough to talk to her.
I posted on Facebook. I called everyone. And this morning, I still can’t process it all.
All he has talked since is how much fun he had. For someone going to a dance, who hates evening events and crowds, he had a pretty awesome time.
Last night I was thinking of all the times I had cried because CJ would never be anyone’s dream prom date. I was thinking of all that I always thought would never be. And last night, I realized that sometimes CJ’s reality is better than anything I could ever have hoped for.
As our friend, Steve, would say, “CJ has now surpassed us all”. None of us were ever Prom King or Queen. None of us would have even dreamed of it. CJ wasn’t anyone’s Dream Date when he arrived. But when he left, he was King!!
And he has the crown to prove it!
Long live King CJ!