That summer was an exciting one. I was set to sing The Wedding Song at my sister’s June wedding. I wasn’t necessarily a soloist but my mom hired a voice coach and I worked hard. I knew I could do it. My hair was growing out and I was excited to achieve some of the big hair looks that were becoming popular. The week before the wedding, my mom convinced me to cut my hair short again and told me they hired a professional singer for the wedding. I was always a team player and lost my locks and took the song rejection in stride. I knew I wasn’t a soloist. I definitely felt a bit discarded. The movie Sixteen Candles literally came out at this time and I easily compared my life to the lead who had good friends yet pined for a cute guy to call her own and a family to notice her.
I wasn’t going to be caught dead working for the Homecoming dance that fall without attending, so I secured a date by agreeing to buy the bid, pay for dinner, pay for the limo, just please, for the love of God, be my date. It worked! He was a nice guy, super funny, and I used my tiny wand curling iron and did my make-up like a pro! I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d get my first kiss at some point on this night. After the dance, the limo pulled up in front of my house. We both got out, I thought, this is it! A good night kiss! Nope. He said, “Okay, bye“ and got back into the limo. It drove away. I sulked into my house, up to my room, and took perhaps my favorite selfie of all time. I call this, “Seriously? Not even a peck of a good night kiss?”
The other dance offered at my high school was called King of Hearts and it was a turnabout dance around Valentine’s Day. I devised the perfect plan. My parents and I went out for dinner one night and as soon as we got home, I was going to head right upstairs, grab the hallway phone, and pull that curly cord until it was taut and safely reached my bedroom. I would call Joe and ask him to the dance. I couldn’t tell you what my parents and I talked about at dinner because my sole and absolute focus was on calling Joe and asking him because word on the streets was that someone else was going to call later that night and ask him too. I had to get to him first!
As we pulled into our driveway, my hand was on the door handle. I was ready to go and execute my Mod-gets-a-date-to-the-dance mission. The car stopped, I leaned forward, and my dad told me to stay in the car. As my mom got out he shared that he and I were going to drive to my newly married sister’s apartment. We had some things to talk about. What?! No! I had something important I had to do. It was time sensitive. Why wasn’t mom coming with? What was happening? I fumed as the car backed out of the driveway and headed to my sister’s place. I stomped my feet as we walked up to her apartment. The other girl likely had already gotten to Joe. Now what would I do?
My dad sat us down and told us that my mom had breast cancer. She was diagnosed well over a year ago but they didn’t want to tell us sooner because they didn’t want to ruin my sister’s wedding. Then it was Christmas and the time wasn’t right. So, they chose to tell us that night, and my mom chose not to be there. She had already had a few procedures. I was stunned. My dad shared that the times where they went on little trips were actually hospital stays. She would be starting chemotherapy soon. We were then told that she didn’t want people to know so we shouldn’t tell anyone.
My mind reeled as we drove back home. I felt sick. My mom had cancer and was going to have chemotherapy. She had already had procedures and my parents lied to us for over a year. Only a few people knew and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. I went to my bedroom and sobbed. I was terrified.