Category Archives: Personal experience


Photo by Candace McDaniel

My oldest daughter, Carly, entered kindergarten with seriously advanced reading skills. She was working her way through the Little House on the Prairie series. In school, she was being taught the letters of the alphabet, numbers, counting, and colors. They did have a gifted program, but not for kindergarteners. I fought hard to have her spend part of her day in a first-grade classroom. I was considered a difficult parent.

We lived outside of Trenton, New Jersey, and I began exploring private schools. In nearby Princeton there were schools that catered to advanced students and actively sought them out. I found one that had the resources and experience to work with students like Carly. They offered us a substantial scholarship, and my parents offered to pay most of the rest of her tuition, and that was where she spent the next three years of her education, until we moved to Arizona.

Many of the people who live in the Princeton area are quite wealthy. We are not. It was as though we lived in different worlds.

Parents at the school sometimes threw events at their homes for the parents and/or children in their kids’ classes. You could film an episode of The Crown in their homes. Generations of ancestors looked down on you from the oil portraits on the walls. Birthday parties were elaborate extravaganzas: carnivals, candy hunts, craft parties.

One time I was invited to an “informal reception” in connection with a fundraising drive. Silly me—I saw the word informal and thought it meant casual.

That’s not what informal means in Princeton. At least, not in the late 1980s.

I sewed myself a skirt out of a Hawaiian floral print. I was so happy with the way it turned out. It was bright and colorful—magenta and yellow and green. I paired it with a shocking pink shell and a turquoise over-shirt.

I took three steps into the reception and realized I’d made a horrible mistake.

Everyone was dressed in black, or in black-and-white.

In Princeton, informal is a short step down from formal. So, not ballgowns and tuxedos, but definitely not casual.

And there I was, sticking out like the proverbial neon sore thumb.

I thought about leaving. I thought about bursting into tears. But instead I took a deep breath, smiled, stood up straight, and tried to fit in as best as I could. No one said an unkind word to me. Nobody mentioned my homemade skirt.

For today’s post, I selected an online blogging prompt: Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion. This was the first incident that came to mind.

Now it’s your turn. Did you ever show up to an event either over- or under-dressed? Share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #216

Creative Juice #216

Such good stuff here. Curated especially for you.

A St. Patrick’s Day Memory

A St. Patrick’s Day Memory

When I was a little girl, I attended a Catholic elementary school. Our parish priest was Father Joseph Sullivan, and he was from Ireland. So every year for St. Patrick’s Day the teachers would put together a special performance where each class would sing an Irish song, recite an Ireland-themed poem, or act out the life of St. Patrick. I think maybe one year someone in eighth grade dressed up as Father Sullivan. “My Wild Irish Rose” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” were always on the program:

Father would sit in the place of honor, front and center in the auditorium, in a wooden arm chair carried from the school office, in contrast to the metal folding chairs that the audience (we students and our teachers) sat on. He would smile and applaud and maybe wipe away a tear or two as our efforts moved him. And it became a tradition that at the end of the program, he would complement us on our performance and reward us by giving us a school holiday the next day.

In the weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, our teachers would remind us that we were practicing our performance to honor Father Sullivan, and not to get a day off school. In fact, Father was under no obligation to give us a day off. “But he always does,” we would answer.

Except, one year, he didn’t. I don’t know what his reason was. Maybe we’d used up all our snow days. Maybe the teachers wanted to teach us a lesson in doing good without expecting a reward. But after he told us how much he treasured the experience of watching our program, he said, “See you tomorrow.” And the entire auditorium answered with a discouraged, disappointed, “Oh!” Immediately, every teacher admonished her students.

The following year, the tradition of granting a day off was reinstated, and I think it continued every year until Father Sullivan passed away of old age.

Stained glass window depicting St. Patrick was photographed by Nheybob.