It was like any other drive home from work. I turned into my subdivision with the same triumphant feeling I always have: the victory of surviving another work day…and the traffic. As I slowed to an appropriate “subdivision safe” speed, I saw something out of the ordinary.
Look at all those kids. I wonder what they’re doing. Wait, they’re building something. What is that? *gasp* It’s a homecoming float!
Y’all know by now it doesn’t take much to excite me. It also doesn’t take much to trigger memories. Pretty much every song, every place, every picture, every THING! It’s as simple as driving down my street rocking out to some 90s on 9 and seeing the Oakville boys hockey team building a homecoming float. The next thing you know, I’m at my house attempting to perform my high school fight song.
Yes, that time of year is upon us. The time of pep rallies and bonfires. The time of parades, float building, and crowning teenage royalty. Communities proudly sport flags and banners and window chalk in the colors of their hometown high school. The time of friendly rivalries fueled between schools and towns, each in support of defeating the other on the football field. Cheerleaders will be tossed through the air while dance teams move and shake and turn and split. The marching band and flag team pull out all the stops with half-time shows that usually generate standing ovations. And the football players… They play their guts out in hopes of tackles, touchdowns, field goals, and ultimate victory. Homecoming dances are held in gymnasiums with much rump shaking and gyrating. Young love blossoms; memories are made.
As you know I grew up in a small town, so perhaps my visions of homecoming are different from most. If you grew up in a small town then you probably know what I’m talking about. You probably also know how horrendous those small-town high schools can be sometimes. Mine was no different. But, no matter how terrible high school could sometimes be, I always LOVED homecoming week.
I was a cheerleader in high school, and homecoming week was non-stop fun. I loved everything about it! From the themed days of spirit week (school color day, pajama day, hat day) to the pep rally on Friday, the parade after that, and the football game that night. I was always a pretty good cheerleader, but homecoming was my forte.
I remember how good I felt when I put on that cheerleader uniform. I felt like I belonged to something really great and for once I felt like people took notice. I felt significant. I remember the anticipation of each day, because it was one day closer to Friday. We practiced every day for hours on end, perfecting our cheers and routines. Even after that, banners had to be made and little “good luck” gifts had to be given to the football players. My evenings were spent fluffing pom poms instead of doing homework, which I would regret later in life, but… Who cares?!?!?!?!? Football games! Cheerleading! RAH RAH RAH!!!!!!
The Friday of homecoming was the BEST day all year. My poor mother could NEVER get me out of bed to get ready for school, but that day she didn’t even have to try. Hell, I might have been up before her! I couldn’t wait to put on that blue and gold pep dress and strut my stuff down the halls of North County High School – bow perfect, ponytail curled and fluffy, lip gloss generously applied. In my mind I.was.the.shit! Finally it would be time for the pep rally, and always my cheer squad would nail our routine. Our motions were sharp, and our girls seemed to fly higher than ever before. And EVERYONE was on their feet when we led the crowd in the “year cheer” (’03, ’03, oh oh oh oh ooooohhhh 3!).
After that, the homecoming parade would take place in my small hometown and the neighboring town, which comprised my school district. The popular girls who had been nominated for homecoming queen would sit with their escorts in the back seats of convertibles and wave to the onlookers. The floats each class had worked so hard on sailed down the streets of our community, the little ones watching in awe as they passed by. The cheerleaders marched in time with the band, stopping only a handful of times to perform a small cheer or execute a toss to wow the kiddos. Looking back on it now, I wonder if it really was as grand as I thought it was then.
I will always remember the rush of the football game beneath the Friday night lights. The boys in blue would barrel down the track and through the banner, spilling out onto the field greeted by a multitude of cheering spectators. I remember how loud the stadium (if you could call it that) got when the ball was kicked-off, and feeling that we must be the loudest fans in all of EVER! I remember not knowing shit about football, but I knew what it looked like when the guy I sat next to in chemistry suddenly broke free and ran down field to the end zone. TOUCHDOWN!!!! And everyone went crazy! The crowd was high-fiving and basking in the glory that was most of their alma mater. The marching band was on their feet pumping out some familiar “in yo face” tune. And there I was, yelling and screaming my head off. For why? I didn’t really know, because I didn’t really know football. I just knew it was good and that my kicks were fucking perfect.
Half-time was almost as important as the game itself. A senior girl was crowned homecoming queen and adored by all. The class floats that all of us had labored on were paraded one last time down the track in front of the crowd. The senior float always won the title of best float, as it should be (as it will always be). Then the dance team would take the field and annihilate a routine – a routine you could tell they put heart and soul into, not to mention hours of practice and perfection. Last, the marching band would blow everyone out of the water with the best songs, the best formations, and the best flag spinning I have ever seen in my life! Like I said earlier, it was always the kind of routine that warranted a standing ovation.
After we won (my memory is only of winning, though I’m sure we lost some, too), the dance would take place in the commons area of our high school. Unlike most schools, we did not have a formal homecoming dance. It was a casual dance where everyone could go – date or no date – and dance the night away. After that, who knows…. Bonfires, cruising, partying… *sigh* Nobody wanted it to end, but sadly it always did.
So to those of you who are participating in homecoming – student, parent, or alumni – I hope you enjoy every minute of it. To my alma mater – the North County Raiders – and my new town – the Oakville Tigers – I wish you a righteous victory. Sorry I will not be there to cheer you on, but… C’mon! The St. Louis Cardinals are in the playoffs! Tonight, my color is cardinal red!
Let’s go birds!!!!
*For those of you wondering if I still remember my high school fight song routine the answer is no. Just all kinds of NOPE! Not only that, but my kicks are no longer fucking perfect. I’m lucky if I can kick past my waist. If I do kick higher than that, then please…call the paramedics because I probably tore every leg muscle I have!*