When I summoned our high school mascot over and asked if he would take a picture with my son Scotty and me, do you know how the kid responded?
He called me ma'am. Well, at least his mama taught him some manners.
Good etiquette aside, his reply basically underscored the sentiment of the entire evening: I basically felt like an old fart amid a sea of whippersnappers. Here's why attending my high school's homecoming football game -- 20 years after I had graduated -- wasn't at all what I thought it would be...
Everything looked the same...but with a twist. So, actually, nothing looked the same.
As soon as we parked the car, I heard the thrum of the marching band's big bass drum, and as soon as we made our way to the stadium entrance, our noses were welcomed by the aroma of freshly-popped popcorn. But other than that, my eyes panned the area looking for something -- anything -- familiar. Back when I was a student at Westland John Glenn High School, the concession stand was housed inside a wooden hut and a dirt path led to the football field. All that has since been replaced by an elaborate entrance complete with paved brick, a wrought iron nameplate sign, and brushed steel lamp posts:
The people I wanted to see have since moved on.
When I approached the ticket counter, I explained to the women collecting the money that I hadn't been back in long, long time, and I inquired whether the man whom I thought was coaching the varsity football team was still coaching. Their reply? "Nope." And so then I asked if my cheerleading coach was still around. Again, "Nope." I don't know why but their reply saddened me. I know times change. I know people move on. I get that. Heck, I had done a lousy job of sticking around myself. But returning to your high school and hoping to see some familiar faces is kind of like returning home for the holidays and expecting your mom to make your favorite food...but she doesn't. It's sad.
The things I had previously identified as homecoming-ish had vanished.
The intricate homecoming floats that sophomore, junior, and senior classes had spent hours toiling under the bleachers to make? They were nowhere in sight. Similarly, the traditional cheerleading uniforms that were hotter than the dickens to wear were also MIA. Instead, in the spirit of the mega-hit The Hunger Games, the classes marched into the stadium carrying signs that pronounced them as members of a particular district. And the cheerleaders wore short shorts, t-shirts, and stark white sneakers with over-the-calf socks to match. I've got to give it to them, once I realized what The Hunger Games signs meant, I thought it was rather creative. And I realize that what the cheerleaders wore may have been a special get-up for homecoming. But, still. I like my homecoming complete with wooden floats bearing streamers and my cheerleaders wearing polyester uniforms. Sorry. I know I am apparently in the minority:
The kids now sit in what I like to call The Student Section 2.0.
You know how grandmas and grandpas regale their grandchildren with the I used to walk a mile to school story? Yeah, well, here's mine: When I was a student at John Glenn, we had a marching band and cheerleaders. And the student section was simply anywhere you could find space on the right side of the bleachers. Now? The rockets have a mascot and the student section has an official name, The Launch Pad. (Shaking my head.) For the love, can't anything stay the same? Don't answer that question. And by the way, Scotty hightailed it when he saw the astronaut. He was scared. I told Scotty that he was a superhero, but he still didn't care and fled:
When I cheered, I couldn't wait to shed my sweatshirt! But now it hides my saddlebags.
No further explanation necessary:
My crew has changed.
BFFs. Fellow cheerleaders and track runners. Revered upperclassmen. Back in the day, my clique included some pretty cool people. Now I roll with the younger set...and by younger, I mean younger as in, they prefer goldfish crackers over Big Gulps and Bubble Guppies over gangsta rap. But it's all good: They make for a cheap date because kids get into homecoming for free. And another thing: The pressure is off to find a respectable gentleman who tickles my fancy: I came -- and left -- with one:
Despite all of this, my Rocket pride is stronger than ever.
Even though I feel like the John Glenn I once knew is gone forever -- and make no mistake, it is -- the pride I currently feel for having gone there is still unwavering. Our fight song, our signature G, our vibrant red, white, and blue school colors...I love it all. It reminds me of home. And always will:
Oh, and by the way. We lost the game. By one point. ONE POINT!! Canton 22, John Glenn, 21. I'm sure it was a nail-biter, but I can't even pretend to know for sure: We were outta there before the homecoming queen was even crowned. The down side to rolling with the younger set is that there's hell to pay if you stay out past their bedtime.