I was looking at some vintage photos of downtown Portland, Maine the other day; it struck me that the Eastland Hotel, which has changed names more times than Liz Taylor, played a significant part in my fantasy life. You know, that life that we live in our hearts and minds whether or not it ever becomes Real?
Anyway, it was June of 1968 when I graduated from Portland High School. In those days, the Graduation, Senior Banquet, and the Senior Prom were all rolled into one very hectic day. We called it “the Senior Prom” back then…not “Prom”. You see, we weren’t too busy to use three words and give it the proper distinctive significance it deserved. I had a super duper gorgeous White Gown for my Senior Prom. It was, in my eyes, sophisticated, dramatic, and just the perfect dress for a seventeen-year-old’s dreams. I fantasized a night of romance, dancing, and being swept off my feet by my handsome (terribly young) suitor. It was a lovely night, actually. The Eastland Ballroom provided a magical and very glamorous background for the Senior Prom of 1968. We did dance and schmooze with all the other sophisticated Grads; everyone was moving on, and it was a last big chance to do it up right. Later we kissed and hugged and stayed up all night, silly teens that we were. My Mom threw a Luau themed breakfast for all those who had the strength left to straggle in the following morning; having been up all night, most of them looked quite bedraggled and some were still “half in the bag”. I have the photos to prove this.
Twenty-three years later, I once again walked down that curved staircase at the Eastland into the room filled with well-wishers at my Wedding Reception. This time I had a really stupendous White Gown, covered with sequins and lace. I had dreamed of my entrance with all eyes on the Bride, and it matched my fantasy exactly. However, the magical qualities of that day faded, since my marriage was perhaps largely built on Fantasy, too. I didn’t get to know my Groom well enough before we were married, and it turned out we were poorly suited for one another after all.
The relationship with my charming High School boyfriend faded in the Fall of 1968 when I attended Boston University. How could it not? He was a sweet boy, a year younger than I, and our paths went in different directions very quickly.
The marriage (my second) whose wedding and reception had been so carefully planned, was a failure after seven long years. How could it not be? We were too different, and that does not work out. I held onto the Fantasy of it for a year or two, but even the most die-hard dreamers have to wake up sometime!
So, as you look at these two photographs of me in my White Gowns, you can see some similarities. There is the young girl in the first photo with hopes and dreams of a teen written on her face. She knows very little, yet thinks she knows so much. She’ll find out.
The second photo shows a 40 year old woman projecting her fantasies and hopes and dreams onto a lovely Wedding Day. She knows very little, still. She’ll find out.
Ironic that these two events should take place in the same room. Both events shaped me in different ways, and both held moments of great promise and big dreams. And, as Robert Kincaid said in “THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY”, “The old dreams were good dreams; they didn’t work out, but I’m glad I had them”.