Wendy goes to prom for the millionth time

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now


When I was a junior in high school, I attended prom with my high school boyfriend, Chuck, whom my friend Kathy Twiss used to call Chunk. I think by that point, the magic was gone from the relationship. It’s hard to remember all those many years ago.

I recall I made my own prom dress out of a blue knit fabric. That was kinda fun. I used to sew my own clothes when I was a wee lass, but that’s been replaced by quilting. Also, I have a much lumpier body now, so it’s harder to fit clothes on me. Besides, I don’t want to sew something that takes forever when I can run down to Et. Cetra and buy a $3 pair of pants.

So, I’ve been to more proms than most people, with my career. That’s one of the “perks” of community journalism. I went to my oldest son’s prom, and he didn’t seem to mind me being there. I also attended the prom my middle son went to with his girlfriend when he was in college and she still was in high school. My sons looked quite dapper in their tuxes. I don’t recall attending my youngest son’s prom. He probably didn’t want me to go.

I went to the proms as a photographer, taking lots of photos for the newspaper. I used to ask the DJ to play heavy metal from a certain band, but he never would. He just wanted to play dance music. Oh well.

I’ve gone to proms when I worked at the Augusta Daily Gazette and then that other paper in town. And, this past Saturday night, Wendy got to go to prom again.

In Newton, I enjoy seeing all the happy people, taking photos of their kids and the smiling youth getting out of different kinds of vehicles. I think one year, some kids arrived in a helicopter. I’m still waiting to see if anyone steps out of a Batmobile. That would be the coolest.

At NHS, it’s a big deal how couples arrive at prom. Many of the kids get creative. This year, the one that left the biggest impression on me was Jaiden Ochoa and Zach Roberson, who arrived with a porch swing affixed to a bucket on a tractor. They just sat there, smiling peacefully, as the tractor rolled up to where they got out.

After a while, I was allowed inside “the belly of the beast,” otherwise known as prom. Most of the students danced. From what I’ve noticed, usually the girls will get up and dance with each other, and then the reluctant boys will join them later. At one point, a cool rave-life atmosphere ensued with kids forming a huge, packed circle with a few of them in the middle. They all raised their hands in the air jumping up and down. It was fun. There was a lot of teen energy there, directed in a positive way.

I’m not sure why I like taking photos of prom. Maybe it’s just because I like to snap moments of kids’ lives when they’re just enjoying themselves, and hopefully not worrying, as they dance, too much about homework or how they look or what time they have to be home. There were so many smiles there.

It’s a place few adults are let into, that fun of youth on the dance floor before they enter college or get jobs, have mortgages and kids, get married, come out of the closet or whatever. It’s just before they start getting weighed down by adulthood.

Prom, for me Saturday night however, wasn’t without its problems. The flash on my camera wasn’t working very well because I didn’t have the battery juiced up enough, so I sent my oldest son a text to see if he could bring me a camera with a flash that works. But, as I was sending the message, my phone died. So, what to do? I was in a pretty much dark room with crazy strobe lights, spotlights, and green and blue lighting illuminating the crowd. I just did what I usually do when things go awry. I work with what I have.

(Warning: This might get a little technical here.) I found my flash worked if I used a high ISO of 1250 and a very slow shutter speed of around sixth of a second. I actually was able to get some shots that way. That was a miracle. So, I had fun at prom and had a nice miracle. It was a good night. Things are never bad when miracles happen.


Wendy Nugent is the features editor of Newton Now. She can be reached at wendy@harveycountynow.com or 316-281-7899.

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