THE END OF THE BEGINNING
by Larry Schwirian
It was the last week of May, and I was driving to McKeesport to pick up my tux for the Senior Prom. This was probably the last time I would ever need to go to McKeesport for anything. Graduation was only a few weeks away, and then there would be only three short months before I left the only home I’d ever known for college in another state. I was anxious to get away, to begin to make my way in the world on my own terms, to be independent of my family…but I was also a little apprehensive. I was, it could be said, more or less at the top of the heap, both academically and socially, in the small town where I grew up, but I knew the competition was going to be a lot tougher in the city at the selective engineering school I was going to attend.
As I parked the car to go into the store to pick up my tux, my train of thought shifted to the girl who was my date for the prom. Her name was Ginny. She was not my girlfriend or even someone I occasionally dated…but just a friend. Her longtime boyfriend and future husband was a couple of years older and away at college; she very much wanted to go to the prom, so she asked me to be her escort. I couldn’t very well refuse as I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time and there was no one I would be happier to spend a special evening with. She was quite attractive and a very personable girl, or should I say young woman? I was never sure, at that age, what the difference was between the two.
Ginny was unlike most of the other girls in our class. She dressed more conservatively and seemed to be more introspective. She lived with her grandmother and never shared anything about her parents or siblings. I sensed a self-consciousness about her situation, so I never pushed for details. Most of the “in-crowd” girls always seemed to hang around together, but Ginny didn’t seem to need the support of her peers.
On the evening of the prom, I drove to her grandmother’s to pick her up. When she came down the stairs in a cream colored, spaghetti-strap, bare-shouldered gown, I was gob-smacked. I had brought her a corsage but was unnerved as to how and where I was going to fasten it to her gown. Fortunately, Grandma rigged-up something so she could wear it on her wrist.
The prom itself was fairly uneventful except that I got a small cut on my nose from Ginny’s hair…she used some kind of hairspray that made her hair that stiff. Afterward, I took her home, and we sat on her porch swing for a couple of hours, talking about our futures. As I was about to leave, she gave me a hug, kissed me on the cheek, and thanked me for being a good friend…and benign escort.
Except for the graduation ceremony, that was the last I saw or heard from Ginny until our forty-fifth high school reunion. That prom and that graduation ceremony were, in a very real sense, The End of My Beginning.
Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and, together, lead BOLLI courses on architecture. Since joining BOLLI, Larry has dived into writing. He has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.