Wanda Hickey and the Frog Pond

by cheri block

May and June signal prom time in American high schools. You know,  the Junior Prom and the Senior Ball, lavish dress-up galas where fully blossomed women wear tiny satin purple dresses and stiletto pumps and boys who look five years younger than they, dressed in patent leather dress shoes and purple paisley cummerbunds, bring them  purple orchid corsages that need a sharp pin with a fake pearl on the end just to stay on a spaghetti strap or no strap at all.

Have you ever walked by an old pond full of algae and listened to the melodious croaking as male frogs compete for female attention?

Prom season is much like a frog pond. images

I had the distinct privilege of being a part of this “scene” for at least 20 years, as juniors and seniors (and some lucky sophomores) vied for the best dates. Because the boys viewed the women with the hottest bodies and most sordid reputations as the best dates, and because so few women in high school met that description, the ratio of hot dates to awkward boys was small. Most boys ended up taking very sweet women.

Granted, things have changed since I left public school in 1998.  The dresses, the shoes, the tattoos, and the after-prom activities come to mind, but one thing rarely changes: the angst that male frogs go through in making the right connection. You know, the fear of rejection and the worry that their date might drop them when the right request comes in, one that  now ( I understand from my nieces and nephews), arrives sometimes via text. Booo! How unromantic!

During those hot and frenzied pond-days in my classroom when the din reached orgasmic proportions, many of the guys and the girls sought out my advice, privately, of course.

What I heard and what I said in response to OMG, what I heard, will remain confidential, in case any of my former students who are now in their mid-forties, happen to read this story.

During class time, especially for those in 5th or 6th period, a time in the afternoon when blood sugar dropped and the smell of freshly cut lawn wafted into Room N-9, I resorted to a different lesson plan. To soothe the ache and quell the urge, I used a strategy employed by my 4th grade teacher who used to read us Charlotte’s Web after lunch to calm us down: I would read a story to my high schoolers–one of the funniest stories on the planet–for three days leading up to the prom.

You have to understand that for an academic slave driver like me–who rarely showed a movie and whose students had to read 150 pages of a classic novel a week–to read for three straight days was not only shocking, but odd. My students tilted their heads and murmured how juvenile this activity seemed. That is, until the story got going…


I read them Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories by Jean Shepherd, the tale of three awkward young men in a frog pond, so to speak. This story I read my students for over 20 years, five times a day, for three days and it never got old for me.

On Monday after the Prom, for those who showed up and weren’t nursing a hangover, I feasted my eyes on some of the most exhausted green faces I had ever seen. But hey! It’s a Monday.

“How was your weekend? Did you all do your homework? Did you read those 150 pages of The Winter of Our Discontent?  Or were you kissing your Frog Prince over the weekend?”

I almost croaked laughing.

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Education, Writing and Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Wanda Hickey and the Frog Pond

  1. What a great story Cheri! Living where I do in close proximity to Washington High school, I can hear all those frogs croaking now!

  2. wkkortas says:

    If you were still grinding through the public school gig, you’d have to add the question “Was it worth the thousand bucks?” Maybe it was better in Shepherd’s days of hand-painted ties and Dad’s car.

  3. Cheri says:

    For sure it was better. Today, parents should open a mini-529 plan to fund the Junior Proms and Senior Balls.

  4. cpartner@comcast.net says:

    very nice

    Cindy Block Usedom Cindy and Partners

    Cell: 510-501-4140 Office: 925-426-3760 http://www.cindyandpartners.com

  5. Brighid says:

    Being the girl part of the equation was never easy for this country bumpkin, either. One prom the town boy came to get the country girl in his father’s Caddie convertible, their dinner reservations got lost at the fine eatery, so they did the A&W drive-in. Thanks for reminding me.

    • Cheri says:

      Oh boy, Brighid. Read Wanda Hickey if you want to go way back (before our generation) to a time that Richard describes in his comment.

      And what is wrong with A&W Root beer? Oh yeah, you were in a prom dress. Yeah. That would not be cool.

  6. Richard says:

    The world of junior balls and senior proms was a strange and wonderful fantasy to my generation raised in an England where there were no such things. To the majority at a boys-only school, girls were an alien species before whom one bumbled and stammered and then fled.

    Thus you may recognise us to this day – eternal adolescents.

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