Louisiana. A minuscule town. Grace’s mother watches her daughter get ready for her big date tonight. She is reminding herself not to cry. Although she wants to shed tears. Because kids grow up so very fast.
Sixteen-year-old Grace is seated before her mirror, cross-legged on the floor. Her mother is fixing her hair. Grace’s mother used to be a hairdresser in a former life, so she knows what she’s doing. They aren’t even close to the makeup application stage yet.
Over at Chad’s house, Chad’s dad comes barreling into the hallway after work, clueless as a Clydesdale. He finds Chad’s mom spying on her 17-year-old son.
Mom is camped outside the boy’s room. “Ssshhh!” she says.
Chad’s father peeks into the bedroom. Chad is wearing a brand new shirt. And—WHOA!—is Chad wearing hair gel?! Dad suppresses a laugh. He turns to see Mom smiling, too.
Back at Grace’s house. Grace and her mother have now moved on to the makeup phase launch sequence. This is going to take a while.
Her mother is positioning trays and brushes on the dresser like Rembrandt at the easel. Grace seems like she’s having a hard time getting a deep breath tonight.
Her mother places a hand on Grace’s shoulder to steady her. This year has been a difficult year for American teenagers. Pandemics, social unrest, social distancing, and now the horrific events in our nation’s capital. What a hellish time to grow up. What an era to be a kid.
At the same time, 12 miles away, Chad has again stripped off his outfit. He now decides he hates his entire wardrobe. His bedroom floor is an ocean of failed clothing options. He browses his empty closet, dressed in only his underpants. His skinny, pale torso contains 0.0003 ounces of body fat. Every rib shows.
Chad’s mother wants to help her son dress, to put him in a shirt that will make his eyes stand out. But getting involved right now would be a grave mistake. So she eavesdrops outside his door.
Miles away, Grace stares into a mirror. Her makeup is done. Grace’s mother leans over her shoulder to admire her daughter.
The makeover has transformed this child into a film star. The girl’s strawberry hair is pulled behind her head, her alabaster skin is unflawed. Mama is swallowing a lump in her throat the size of a Wilson volleyball.
Chad is having an existential crisis. He has changed his outfit 13 times. He now wears no pants, one shoe, a crumpled button-down, a necktie. And he cannot figure out how to make a dadgum Windsor knot to save his life.
But over in Grace’s room, if you could peek through the window, you would feel your breath catch. Because Grace’s dress is perfect. Pink. Sleeveless. She and her mom picked it out together, just for tonight. It took two days to find.
When her mother sees her daughter in this dress she cannot speak. Her eyes are threatening to flood.
In Chad’s room, the parental reinforcements have now entered the teenage nuclear pig sty. Chad’s father is teaching his boy to tie a full Windsor. Chad seems embarrassed by this basic lesson in neckties. But hey, it happens to us all, kid.
The good news is, Chad’s mom has received the greenlight to enter her son’s bedroom and is now using her cellphone to take approximately 12,069 pictures for social media.
Soon, Chad is in the family car, leaving. Mom and Dad watch the taillights wink into the darkness. Chad’s parents hope he has fun tonight, they hope he stays safe, and above all, they hope he doesn’t jack up their auto insurance rates.
A car pulls into Grace’s driveway.
A vehicle door slams.
Grace’s mother hears the doorbell.
Her mother can see that her daughter is nervous. Grace’s pulse can literally be seen thumping beneath the tendons of her slender neck. Boomboomboom! goes her heart.
The moment of truth arrives.
Grace emerges, then descends the long staircase, hand on the rail, taking careful steps. Big smile. She looks like an angel visiting mere mortals.
Chad stands in the entryway of the home, watching her. He does not speak.
This ritual among humans is sacred. And although many modern humans treat romance as though it were a casual kick in the mud, once upon a time we respected it. Once upon a time we cherished love. For there is nothing half as holy as the dance of courtship among the young.
And although these turbulent times have threatened to ruin the joys of growing up, youthful innocence is hard to kill. Life finds a way.
Chad is the first to say something.
He speaks to Grace using American Sign Language.
The boy has been learning to sign for eight months—ever since he met Grace. Sometimes he studies for hours into the night, watching internet videos, practicing with instructors. One day he hopes to be as fluent as Grace is.
Tonight, however, he can hardly sign his own name. “You look so beautiful,” he signs to Grace.
Grace signs, “Thank you. You look nice, too.”
They stand at the door, Grace’s mother signs to them both: “Please be careful tonight.”
Grace replies, “Motheeeerrrrr.”
Chad says, “I promise, ma’am, I’ll take care of Grace.”
His choice of words is perfect.
The boy holds the vehicle door for this beautiful girl. He starts the car. They wave goodbye. The car leaves the neighborhood.
Grace’s parents are left watching their only daughter disappear over the dark horizon, totally lost in the eyes of a skinny boy who wears a crooked necktie.
It is then, and only then, that Grace’s mother allows herself to cry.
Because they really do grow up too fast.
Patricia M - January 12, 2021 10:42 am
Super sweet story!
Nancy M - January 12, 2021 10:48 am
What a beautiful love story! I hope Grace and Chad will be happy. He spent eight months learning sign language for her! That’s amazing. God bless them both.
Janie - January 12, 2021 11:14 am
Leigh Amiot - January 12, 2021 11:16 am
M. Dale Milita - January 12, 2021 12:00 pm
At my age, my memory is so good anymore. But ID I recall I was right there in that scene and once lay multiple parts.
Thank you Sean
Heidi - January 12, 2021 12:19 pm
I don’t know how you always write the perfect story for each day, but you do. Today I needed to be reminded that there is still normalcy in this world. Thank you.
Bob Brenner - January 12, 2021 12:52 pm
Beautifully stated Sean❤️! Young love nothing better…
Phil (Brown Marlin) - January 12, 2021 2:05 pm
A double AMEN to your last sentence Sean! What a cute story of youthful romance, just like in the old,cherished days. I, too, was 17 the first time I took my future wife to a movie, I got our family car stuck in her driveway, and her brother and sisters had to help me push it out of the mud. What a romantic start to the evening that was! We all still laugh about it, them more than me.
Kudos to Chad. The twinkle is his eyes looked way beyond Grace’s impairment to see her true beauty.
Jan - January 12, 2021 2:23 pm
Rich Owen - January 12, 2021 2:39 pm
Nicely done, Sean!
Jenny Young - January 12, 2021 2:40 pm
Sean…you paint pictures with words just like Norman Rockwell with paint….I can see a Norman Rockwell painting so clearly reading this.
Monique Gutenkunst - January 12, 2021 2:57 pm
Thank you! I needed a story like this today. Beautiful.
Lynn - January 12, 2021 3:00 pm
Grace’s mom is not the only one with leaky eyes. This precious hope that the world will be alright in spite of all that is going on around us. Sean, thank you for this story!
Lu Chappell - January 12, 2021 3:55 pm
Tears…so true. Thank you. Brought back so many memories. Much needed. ❤️
Christina - January 12, 2021 4:37 pm
You wrote like a romance novelist today, Sean! 😂
Patti A. Culp, CAE - January 12, 2021 4:51 pm
Cynthia Russell - January 12, 2021 5:17 pm
THANK YOU …memories of my sweet nieces..
Donna - January 12, 2021 5:22 pm
Sappy as all git out… LOVE it Sean… one of your best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Linda Moon - January 12, 2021 6:01 pm
Life and grace made a way for My Guy and me when I was sixteen. In any language, grace and beauty and niceness are just about perfect. Today is a good reflection day for growing up, memories of being sixteen, and the family twins’ birthday. They grew gracefully older today, and it’s been really fast. Thank God they did. I hope Chad and Grace will, too!
Dawn B - January 12, 2021 6:08 pm
God bless our children!
Donald B Hines - January 12, 2021 6:32 pm
Reminded me of a first date with a special girl. After I rang the doorbell, the family dog came around the house and began making love to my leg. I was attempting to shake the dog free when she answered the door. Talk about a rough start to a first date.
Jane - January 12, 2021 6:35 pm
Yes they do. But we do want them to grow up and spread their wings.
Bill - January 12, 2021 7:22 pm
Sean, that was a great story. I’m surer we can all relive our own days of these events and the days we experienced our own kids doing the same. Thanks for a story that, for a moment, escapes what is happening these days.
Sandra - January 12, 2021 7:44 pm
Wonderful!❤️I gave to admit when I saw the title and first few words, I thought it was going to be a a story about Bama playing in the championship game and Devonta Smith who is from a small town in Louisiana! Roll Tide!
Jayne Harper - January 12, 2021 11:37 pm
Such a wonderful story, brings back so many memories! Loved the story of Alabama living in Cullman! It was wonderful! Hope you and Jamie enjoyed! ❤️😍
Ann - January 13, 2021 12:16 am
Sooooo very sweet….a real visual.
elizabethroosje - January 13, 2021 3:32 am
OH I love that!! How beautiful!
Cheryl Peterson - January 16, 2021 5:10 am
How beautiful! Thank you.
Chasity Davis Ritter - January 17, 2021 9:58 pm
Well at least she’s not crying alone!
Julie - February 1, 2021 1:29 am
This one, Sean, took me back to my own first date with my high school sweetheart and future husband of almost 50 years. He died 4 years ago, and each day without him is a struggle for me. Thank you, Sean, for painting a beautiful picture of my own memory…happy tears💕