A couple of months ago, Nicole Larriviere and her daughter, Julia, found the perfect prom dress. Julia, a senior at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, was looking forward to wearing it to her school’s prom.
She was understandably disappointed that the prom was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
At McGill, the annual spring dance is steeped in tradition. After eating dinner together at a local country club, the couples arrive at the University of South Alabama Mitchell Center, where the stage is decorated with a theme – this year’s was “Roarin’ Twenties” – and each senior is called out, walking into a spotlight as parents and grandparents watch. For the first dance, the boys dance with their moms and the girls dance with their dads. Then the families leave, and the students continue with the prom before changing clothes and heading to an after-party at a skating rink.
For Julia, the prom was going to be one of many rites of passage she and other members of the Class of 2020 will miss during this strange spring semester of her senior year, with schools closed because of the pandemic. “Obviously, she misses her friends,” said Nicole. “That’s the hardest part, not getting to be with her friends.”
Last week, Nicole came up with an idea that she hoped would make the evening a little less painful for her daughter. “I wanted her to go through the process of mourning that it didn’t happen, and to have all those emotions associated with it,” she said.
And so, on April 11 – the day of the canceled prom – Nicole told Julia she was going to have a “spa day” at home, complete with a pedicure from mom as a lavender diffuser scented the air.
While Julia did her hair and makeup, her brother Nicolas, a sophomore at Auburn University whose school year was also cut short, made dinner with some help from their dad, James. They grilled chicken and made chicken breasts stuffed with broccoli and cheese, hash-browned potatoes (at Julia’s request) and zucchini. A candlelight dinner was served on china plates with crystal glasses. Later, for dessert, they had brownies with strawberries and hot fudge sauce.
Wearing her halter-style, pale-blue dress, Julia and her “dates,” James and Nicolas, who were both wearing tuxedos, posed for photos along their white picket fence. Julia held a bouquet of flowers in her arms.
Nicole didn’t notice the men’s choice of footwear – Nicolas wore Crocs, while James sported brown loafers – until she saw the pictures she’d taken outside their home.
“That’s part of the reality,” she said. “It was not a perfect night, not a perfect anything. The reality is that this is a different time for everyone. The shoes were perfect because that’s where we’re at.”
After dinner, they FaceTimed with family members to show them how pretty Julia looked in her dress, and her dad spun her around a couple of times.
“It was sweet,” Nicole said. “I think as she goes forward, she’ll appreciate it more.”
Nicole posted three of the photos on her Facebook page, and her friends and family immediately reacted, commenting on how beautiful Julia looked and what a great idea it was to acknowledge prom night. One friend commented, “The funnest part of prom is picking out the dress, getting ready and having the pictures to look back on, so y’all covered the important part.”
The photos from that night will always tell a bittersweet story. Sure, Julia missed a special event. But, in their isolation, in the midst of a global pandemic, her family was together to make sure she will always have something to remember from that April night spent at home.
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This story originally appeared on AL.com.