Winter Formal the American Way

All immigrant parents live each milestone in their child’s life with the hope it will bring them closer to understanding how their adoptive country works.
My younger daughter is going to winter formal tonight. It is the second time, but last year my husband drove her alone to her date’s home. I stayed with our son who was too young to attend. So this year is really a first for me.
I should know more about formals from my two oldest daughters. But my first one, fearing the possibility of a formal a la française did her shopping on her own and got ready at a friend’s home. 
My second one has never been traditional, and although she embraces our family origins, she never followed rules and went to formals or proms with friends and boyfriends or simple dates, preferring low-key outfits and restaurants.
My younger daughter loves traditions, American and French alike.
Weeks ago, she shopped for her dress and shoes. I was sent on a mission for a corsage and a boutonniere, which for the French reading these lines, don’t mean blouse and buttonhole.
Like pie a la mode that has nothing to do with a fashionable pie, but only a slice of pie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, a boutonniere in the US is a flower pinned on a boy’s jacket lapel. A corsage is not a blouse but and a small bouquet of flowers slipped as a bracelet around a girl’s wrist.
My explanation to the friendly young woman who took care of the order last week, and ignored the French meaning of the words, earned me two scrumptious chocolate truffles.
When my daughter’s boyfriend showed up at three o’clock, he looked stunning. Any guy or man wearing a well-cut suit or tux looks good, in my opinion.  He was no exception.
Rain has finally arrived in California, and my daughter was eager to take advantage of the few sunny moments to capture the special day on her camera. My husband, although worried to see her seventeen-year-old daughter on her way to a night event, was appointed photographer and played his role to perfection, immortalizing the day on a camera and a few iPhones as well. 
Standing under the fragile afternoon sunlight, my daughter and her boyfriend looked so young and happy that I understood in a flash why formals and proms matter so much to American teenagers and their parents, and also why we don’t have such events in France.
The pursuit of eternal youth and constant happiness, as well as the importance of school rituals, are perhaps what separate the French and Americans the most.
My fifteen-year-old son is also going to formal this year. He got a blue tie to match the color of his date’s dress. She is one of his classmates and they decided to skip the corsage and boutonniere. My son is also a mix of traditions and non-conformism.
Ten of his friends are meeting for dinner before the dance. Since none of them is driving yet, (yeah!), several parents will be their chauffeurs.
Then, my husband and I will have dinner. Not an early dinner, but a late dinner that will remind us of our Parisian dinners.
None of us back then had heard of winter formals, of corsages and boutonnieres.
None of us had a way of knowing that some day, our American children would explain to us the rituals of their native country, a country often seen abroad as lacking traditions but that, in my opinion, is built on rituals that any immigrant ends us embracing with a fervor similar to the one of a native.

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