Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Gimme an "H"

Now that we have two girls in high school, I figured it was time to step it up a bit in the school spirit department. And what better way to get in the mood than a high school homecoming?
I’m not going to say how long it’s been since I was at a homecoming (27 years), but I’ll just say my last appearance involved a perm, a calico Gunne Sax–inspired dress and a date driving his dad’s 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix.
When it comes to school, we parents bug our kids about studying. We quiz them about homework. We practically shove them out the door every morning to get to school on time.
But homecoming isn’t about schoolwork or grades. This is our chance to celebrate our teens having good old-fashioned fun. And it doesn’t get more all-American than a homecoming rally.
I knew they’d been working hard all week at the high school, rehearsing skits, designing homecoming outfits and decorating, but could this be the same gym I was just in three days earlier for a volleyball game?
The basketball hoops were tucked up, replaced by giant banners for every class, each decorated in its own “California” theme. Sparkling lights were strung around, a stage was in place and cameras in position. The lights were down and the mood was up.
After the parents filed in and found seats in the center of the gym, the homecoming rally leaders introduced the individual classes. Each ran in to their own music, cheering and waving.
The cheerleaders were there. The football players were there. The principal was there. My husband and I twisted in our seats to get a glimpse of our girls wearing their individual class T-shirts and sitting in their separate bleacher sections.
Normally teens don’t want Mom or Dad hanging around them and their friends, so as I sat there, I felt like a parental anthropologist observing the teenage “natives” in their natural habitat.
Teenagers are often moaning and groaning about one thing or another, but this was a gym full of teens in a really good mood. The energy from all of these happy teenagers bounced around the room like an electric charge. I waved at one daughter and she actually waved back at me. OK, it was half a wave, but I’ll take it.
Lead by the rally leaders, each class took a turn to scream and shout to show that they had the most class spirit. In between the shouting, lights flashed. Horns blared. Someone started the Wave around the gym. A bunch of guys wearing “Blue Man” suits dashed around.
The homecoming court was introduced, each girl linking arms with her escort. As they paraded slowly up the aisle, I silently rooted for my favorites, crossing my fingers for the girls — now young women — that I have come to know and admire over the past four years.
The cheerleaders hit the floor for their routine. Timed to music played at double speed, they jumped and kicked and pumped their arms in sync. Three or four cheerleaders were hoisted up in the air, and in what looked like an extremely precarious move, they twisted and dropped at the same time. I held my breath as one girl tumbled over another in the air and flipped expertly to the floor. Safe! Whew.
The football team made its grand entrance by crashing through paper banners painted with each player’s name and number. A dance team performed. The new school mascot made his debut to more wild cheers and applause.
No homecoming rally is complete without a bonfire, which is where everyone headed next. Outside the gym, the girls scattered away with their groups of friends. Clumps of girls and boys huddled together while my husband and I watched the fire rise up above the school parking lot. Stacked high, the wooden pallets burned higher and brighter, the flames reflecting off the windows of the gym.
Around us, groups of students and families wearing school sweatshirts and hats finalized plans for the homecoming game and dance. Teachers and school staff mingled with parents and alumni. Expectation and excitement floated in the air, along with sparks from the bonfire.
It was good to be in high school again, even for just one night.

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