By JD Rockel
The Back to School dance was coming up quickly as school had started just three weeks ago. Ella was psyched and had spent most of the week going through her clothes looking for just the right outfit to wear.
“Argh, I have nothing to wear,” Ella moaned.
“Not to be cruel, but that’s not true. You have lots to wear. Show me your top picks,” Rosa replied looking up from her homework.
“You don’t understand. This has to be perfect for me to meet someone.”
“I think I understand your reasoning. On a scale of awful to perfect, an awful outfit will give you an awful someone, but a perfect outfit will bring you a perfect someone.”
“But what about God’s involvement? Have you prayed about the outfit?”
“What? Why would God care about the outfit I wear?”
“Well, I think He would care on a lot of levels, but let’s stick to the basics. God cares about your life and your future so He would care about who you meet at the dance.”
“OK, I’ll pray about it, but I need to pick something first.”
“Really? Did you hear yourself just now? Let me pray for you, OK? I’ll make it quick.”
Ella looked at Rosa chin down, like she was looking over the top of imaginary glasses. Her mouth hung open and she let out a quiet sigh. “Sure, go ahead.”
“Father God, we know you love us beyond measure. Ella is very concerned she makes a good impression for the dance Friday, and she needs your help to select an outfit. Please help her by giving her peace when she selects the outfit you want her to wear. Amen”
“Amen,” Ella echoed, not sure of what just happened. “I’ll give this another try.”
Ella went through her top choices again. This time she narrowed the choices to two, a green outfit and a blue outfit. She really seemed to like the blue outfit for some reason.
“What do you think, Rosa? Green or blue?” Ella held the two outfits up in front of herself modeling them one at a time for Rosa to review.
“I think the blue one for sure, sis. It has such a nice floral pattern.”
“Me too.” Then it hit her. It seemed Rosa was right about praying first. Ella didn’t pray much at all. It seemed to be limited to just before a big test and before meals when it was her turn at the family table. Maybe Rosa was on to something. “I guess you were right about praying. I do feel good about this choice. By the way, have you changed your mind about going to the dance?”
“No.” Rosa had her head buried in a history book while Ella was going through clothes.
“You afraid you’ll have too much fun or even meet a boy you like?”
“I’m afraid I will fall behind in my classes. These first weeks of high school have been a challenge. I admit I may be taking this too seriously but missing the first high school dance won’t ruin my social life. Maybe I’ll go to homecoming.”
Ella laughed. “By then all the boys worth dating will be snatched up. Early bird gets the worm.”
“Yes, but if you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
“What? That makes no sense, Rosa.”
“Yeah, well, that’s why I have to study. My brain is mush right now.”
“That’s exactly why you need to dance, to de-mushify your brain.”
“Now who’s talking nonsense?” They both laughed. Rosa got up and hugged her sister.
“I really hope you have a great time, Ella. I will pray that you meet someone really nice.”
“Thanks, sis. Maybe I’m making too much of this dance, but I’ve been looking forward to meeting boys in high school for so long now. I don’t want to miss any opportunities.”
“Why not put that blue outfit on and see what Mom thinks about it?”
* * *
Ella put on the blue dress and stood in front of the mirror. Her hazel eyes looked back at her. She turned left and right trying to see the dress from multiple angles. Falling just below her knees, the soft fabric was white with many shades of blue in the pattern. The flowers were nondescript roses with darker stems and leaves interspersed.
Ella’s long, dark brown hair turned golden at the tips and fell straight down her back just past her shoulder blades. The soft curls lived in the last twelve inches of hair. Rosa was less concerned about her appearance, though she always looked perfectly presentable. But when she did make a change, Ella made sure to copy it exactly. While they didn’t always dress alike anymore, Ella wanted their face and hair to match.
After trying a few more smiles, winks, and bashful looks in the mirror, Ella left to find her mom. Being a Wednesday, she was found in the laundry room beside the garage.
“Hey, Mom. What do you think of this outfit for the dance Friday night?”
“Is that this Friday already? Seems too soon.”
“Mom, it’s supposed to be right away after school starts. It’s the Back to School dance.”
“Of course. For some reason, I don’t think very clearly on laundry day. Maybe I should get you girls to do laundry more often so your old mother can think more clearly.”
“Maybe we should leave things as they are right now since Rosa and I are learning to drive. You wouldn’t want us to do laundry, cloud our thinking, and then go driving, would you?”
“Strangely that makes sense. So, what did you want?”
“My outfit, Mom. I’m thinking of wearing this to the dance. Does it work for me? I don’t want to scare off any boys.”
“Well, you certainly won’t scare off boys. I’d be more concerned that you will have to fight them off. You look great!”
“Aw, thanks Mom, you really think so?”
“Yes, I do. You look fantastic. Good choice. By the way, whose taking you to the dance and picking you up?”
“Uh, good question. You maybe?”
“I’m working. Better check with Dad right away.”
“Dad!!!” she yelled so the whole house could hear her.
“I’m in the garage,” came the muffled reply.
Ella ran out the door to the garage and found Tony by his workbench. “Dad, can you take me to the dance Friday night and pick me up afterward?”
“Good to see you too, sweetheart.” Tony looked up to see Ella a little out of breath and looking a little frightened. “Friday night? You’re in luck. Mom’s working at the Cucina but I have the night off.”
“Oh, Dad, you’re the best. Just saved my life.”
“Wow, this sounds like a very important dance. Really early in the school year though.”
“You and Mom need to get out more. It’s the Back to School dance, Dad. It has to be really early in the school year.”
“That does make sense. You know, you should wear that blue outfit you have on now. It makes you look great!”
“Wow, maybe you’re more with it than I thought. This is the outfit I chose to wear for Friday. I put it on to show Mom. She thinks I’ll have to bludgeon the boys off of me. Maybe I should take one of your hammers, Dad.”
“I’ll be a bit more pessimistic and say only the best boys will pay attention to you. How’s that?”
“That works. It runs from eight to midnight. I don’t want to get there too early, so maybe leave home at 8:30?”
“And how about if I pick you up at 11:30. You should have selected your future husband by then.”
“DAD! Eww! I just want to date right now.”
“Dating? OK. Sex? No.”
“I know, Dad.”
“OK, 8:30 Friday it is.”
* * *
Friday evening came much more quickly than Ella expected. By 7:00 she had her hair done and by 7:30 makeup, but not too much. Then her outfit and double check everything in the mirror. Not bad, I’m ready before 8:00. Better find Dad and make sure he’s ready.
Tony was indeed ready and a bit nervous. This was his little girl’s first high school dance. He tried to prepare for the worst, a crying young woman who felt rejected by the world. But he hoped for the best, the boys would show her the respect she deserves. Regardless, he wanted to be the kind of father to his daughter that God had been to him, loving and caring.
Ella found her dad sitting across from the fireplace in the living room. As was often the case, Liam and the younger twins were hanging out in the family room also. “You ready, Dad?”
“I surely am. And you look great! If you’re ready, why don’t you sit down and just chill for a bit before we leave.”
“Wow, Dad, you said chill. Are you trying to be hip or something?”
“Hip? That wasn’t even in my younger vocabulary. Do you feel relaxed and confident for tonight?”
“I really do. I have tried to pray about tonight since Rosa prayed on Wednesday that I would find the right outfit. That worked, so I thought I had best try praying about the dance.”
“I certainly agree with that, Ella. We humans underestimate the power of prayer. It’s true God already knows what we will pray for, but you must remember that God is all about relationships. He wants us to spend time with Him. I’m very glad you started this evening by praying.”
Ella sat there and did relax with her father. She tried her best to set aside the concerns of meeting a boy and hoped she could just have fun tonight.
At 8:15 Tony said, “Did you want to leave now so we can get there at 8:30?”
“That sounds like a good idea, Dad.”
The two of them got up and went to the car. Everyone said “goodbye” and “have a great time”. The weather was really nice, so no jackets were needed. With her clutch bag in hand, Ella was glad she didn’t have to think of one more thing.
“I know you will take care of yourself, sweetheart,” Tony said as they drove out of the subdivision.
“I will Dad.” Only a few minutes later they pulled up to the school’s main entrance. “See you at 11:30. I’ll call you if the evening becomes a disaster,” Ella said for her goodbye.
She chuckled and Tony felt at ease. “You know I’ll be praying for you, sweetheart.” As he pulled away Ella thought about the kind of Christian her dad was. He didn’t have to say he would be praying for her as he drove home, she just knew he would. Taking a deep breath, Ella walked to the building.