WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Morning Glory. By Gail Ilagan

She was nervous and kilig and fearful and hopeful. I could read it in her tense posture and her non-stop jibber-jabber, her Bambi eyes now flashing, now secretive, now brimming with laughter.

Pidot finally allowed her a look in the mirror. She let out a shriek of delight.

“Thank you!” she yelled. “Oh, how did you know? It’s exactly the look I want! Mama, how did he know?”Happy laughter bubbled out.

There was a reason why Bob Castillo of Alta Moda strongly suggested that only Pidot would be allowed to touch my girl’s mug. The last time Bob and Pidot teamed up to do up my girl was almost nine years ago at her Uncle Andy’s wedding. Bob made her a smashing gown then to make her Tita Letlet’s dream come true. For the prom last Friday, it was Liane’s dream dress that Bob conjured seemingly like magic from his drawing palette.  

It’s taken me this long to again afford the services of this ex-Trappist contemplative. For this milestone in my daughter’s road to adulthood, I figured the dress needed a bit of philosophy and sober contemplation to capture and bring out her inner spirit. Oh, yes. Only Bob would do.

Hubby and I are certified prom parents finally. No joke. We both worked very hard at it. You see, neither one of us is proficient on the girl thing. Hubby doesn’t have a sister. He has a mother who has her own bathroom all to herself. He also has a wife who, when left to her own devices, spends ten minutes doing her face and two minutes tops getting into her togs. I, on the other hand, had my Ate Joy to stage-manage my social events by the time I got to Liane’s age. I don’t remember much except to close my eyes, stay still, and move my limbs when ordered to. In fact, I still do that. Ask Daphne Padilla who has made it her mission to chase me around with a lipstick, rework my sash, and drop loads of gypsy skirts on my work desk.

Four Saturdays back, we delivered our girl to her appointment for a fashion consult with Bob. Then hubby and I crossed the street to ogle tropical aquarium fish on display. We came back thirty minutes later to find Bob and Liane going through the swatch selection, picking out colors and textile materials. Seeing me come in, Liane turned momentarily unsure.

“What color would you suggest, Mama?” she asked in a lost voice.

“I’d like you in ice green, but this one’s your call. It doesn’t have to be ice green,” I said reassuringly.

“Ice green?! Yuck,” she recoiled. “No green. No green whatsoever.” She shuddered for good measure. She was suddenly so sure and definite about what she didn’t want.

Mama got the message. So did Bob. She finally decided on a color that matched her bare lips. My girl who never wears pink picked something that reminded me of four seasons flambé.

The next Saturday found us going on a shoe hunt. I dragged mall-savvy Angie Torres along. Liane brought her pal Gabee Nisperos. We had steak at Em’s Pasta and Rolls to fortify us on our Cinderella quest. Hubby, the prudent man, decided to have the services of the blind masseur rather than slow us down. We found him two hours later leisurely licking an ice cream cone.

Seven days later found hubby driving me and Liane to the salon. I won’t tell you what we did except that five hours there got my nose to burn and run.

And then this last weekend was a flurry of gown fittings, rehearsals, an
d accessories selection. Still we seemed to have missed something. I quizzed Li about table manners and social graces. I had instructors lined up, but I had to travel to Butuan, Agusan, and Iligan by way of Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro. Li insisted they had recently covered instructions on etiquette at school. It nagged, but I let it go.

Eve of the prom found me on the bus from Cagayan de Oro. The cellphone signal kept dropping as we hit forlorn old logging towns and rumbled right on along heading for home. Somewhere on the dark roads, my cellphone caught Liane’s texted query for corsage-like thingy for her date. And shouldn’t she be getting him a token or something?

Gee. It was time to call in the big guns. I texted Ate Joy for help as soon as I got a signal.

God was in Her heaven. Big Sister called my daughter and gave her twenty minutes’ worth of Girl Thing 101. That got Li to stop chattering and say a polite yes every six seconds. She also learned a new word: buttoniere.

As the bus wended its way seemingly to dark forever nowhere, I was thinking that Li’s prom had better roll in soon. I couldn’t take any more of the stomach-clenching rollercoaster.

Pidot’s reassuring smile was a most welcome sight. Hubby promptly got himself lost again as Pidot sat Liane down and took out his curling iron. I watched, marveling how my girl was sitting still for this. I remember thirteen years back when she would tear the ribbons off her curls as soon as I had tied them on. My girl spent the first three years of her life refusing to wear a shirt. She would never wear a dress unless I bribed her. Still won’t. But there she was last night eagerly getting into that silky, shimmery garb that she earlier decried as flower girl dress. She said she’d have wanted something sophisticated.

Sophisticated, my bleep-bleep. You’re fifteen and I haven’t forgotten. What’s more, tigerlily, you can wear a sack and you’d still be the prettiest fifteen-year-old in the macrocosmos.

That’s me losing my cool. Chill.

Like a fifteen-year-old, Li forgot about flower girl the minute Pidot zipped her into her prom dress. I got down on my knees and strapped on her sandals, promptly reprising my goalkeeper’s dodge as she made a beeline for the mirror. The look on her face as she yelped her happiness to Pidot and me was – oh, there’s no other word for it – it was priceless.

“Hey,” Pidot turned to me as Liane preened and pouted at herself in the mirror. “We’re getting old.”

Yeah. And getting old is about realizing that soon my daughter’s happiness would take more than hubby and I splurging to get her to look her best on the most special night of her night. Soon her happiness would probably be beyond our power to grant. Soon, she’d have to go for it on her own lonesome. Would she find philosophy and sober contemplation the most important tools to claim her soul?

Come to think of it, it’s been a long time since I saw her morning glory look beamed at my direction. Morning glory said you make me super happy, Mommy. Morning glory was about Deneb and Rigel, Betelgeuse and the Dogon stars – in fact, a million splendid stars – twinkling in her eyes. I used to have morning glory every time my baby girl woke up. It used to be that I didn’t have to sweat four weekends in a row.

(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail.ilagan@gmail.com. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)