Teri Orr: Presenting a princess
It was my first quinceañera. Sure, I knew the tradition of a 15-year-old girl — being celebrated as a young woman on her significant birthday — is centuries old. And it comes from the Hispanic cultures from Spain to Mexico and Chile and so many places in-between … like Park City. But I had never been able to attend one before.
My young friend was very excited to have a birthday party with her friends with a long anticipated ceremony and a certified occasion to dress up.
Her parents — who live apart — came together for the night because they clearly love their daughter. No acrimony tonight over the broken matrimony. They were joyful at their daughter’s “arrival” into womanhood. And her father’s parents — who live in the area now — were there to honor the young woman. And so were about 10 adults and about 40 of her friends. Boys and girls and gender-fluid kids in all shades of Park City. They were dressed up — kinda prom-like but old school — no grand upsweeps of hair and designer gowns or red-soled wobbly heels. Normal — what we used to call Sunday morning clothes but with a bit more style and intention.
The event was in the always-homey Treasure Mountain Inn. And there were all the fixings for make your own — tacos or nachos or free-form rice and beans and shredded meats with guacamole and cheese and sour cream. Teenage fuel — the handful of adults also dove in with gusto. There were clear helium balloons filled with giant pink confetti and a ruffled cake that was pink and white.
But honestly I couldn’t keep my eyes off all the sweet, exceedingly polite and charming teenagers. Look, I’m not related by blood to any of these kids and on an average random Saturday afternoon they may be different creatures. But on this special night they all acted special. The young men wore white shirts and slacks — the young women — sweet party dresses that weren’t overly shiny or full of slits they needed to tug up or down. They were dancing their not-fully-formed brains out to the DJ who had the perfect sets to make the whole night danceable — in bunny hop lines and swing style and big cheers and big arms with the Queen songs. And these kids were in sync — many of them have been celebrating birthdays together in Park City since preschool days.
Maxine — the birthday girl — was kind and gracious to everyone — the way a real princess would behave. She was so lovely in her long gown with the cranberry skirt with some flair — but in no way bouffant or stiff-skirted. It hung from an empire waist where a sweetheart ribboned top formed a heart-shaped bodice — just barely strapless.
After a few hours of dancing and giggling and eating all things not nailed down — it was time for the mood to shift. It was time for Ceremony. The DJ turned the mic over to mom, Diane, and she explained that this family was celebrating a version from Spain where her Castilian roots are based. She spoke of the tradition — at 15 years old a girl leaves behind her slippers and her father gives her her first pair of heels. And he did. She slipped her flats off and the elegant nude-colored heels — which ARE her first pair of heels — were slipped on. Her mom then produced the simple tiara to declare her girl was — had always been her princess — a princess to all. Then the princess was handed the mic. She spoke in calm thoughtful fully formed sentences about how grateful she was for her family and friends. And then her friends took turns passing the mic. And with very few giggles (but just enough) talked about burnt bagels and late nights and tests and starting new schools and kindnesses remembered from each other. The young men and the young women.
Every adult in the room was mesmerized. And for just a tiny moment in time — in a room in a non-shiny hotel on Main Street — in Park City, Utah — all was right with the world. There was transition and transformation and age-old truths played out on a crowded wooden dance floor. It was all suspended and I was in love with how the whole wide, crazy, unfair, mean-spirited, overly shiny world — slipped away. And in its place was Planet Right Now. I swayed a bit in the back of that dim room and was grateful beyond measure to have been asked to bear witness to such innocence and hope — just minutes before the magical night turned into another day full of promise — Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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I must admit that, although I have felt much love wherever I hung my hat during this life, I never felt more at home in a new cultural environment than on my first trip down that coastline.