How Heading Out on a Friday Night Can Help You Feel At Home
I’ve lived in my neighborhood for eight and a half years. I lived in another neighborhood only a few miles from here for three years before that, and before that an apartment. Up until last year really, I never really felt “part” of where I live. Then I attended a Friday night football game. Nostalgia hit like a pom-pom to the face. The sea of parents with the student section down in front. The smell of oversalted popcorn. The high-pitched drone, and I mean drone, of the cheerleaders. (I am not really a cheerleady person, I just play one on Twitter.) The announcer over the scratchy PA system with the weird echo. And my favorite part, the marching band. The drum line gives me goosebumps whenever they rip off a quick cadence. Yes, nostalgia lives at high school football games.
We attended a high school game a couple of years ago because my daughter’s friend had a brother that was on the team. The weather was beautiful and we had nothing else going on. It was fine but it was an away game at a neighboring school so it was sort of eh.
But last year, when we attended our first game at our home stadium, which is literally three minutes from our house, it was like being transported back in time. Except for the skimpy clothes, long straight hair, and cell phones. As a kid, we lived for Friday night football games. The whole town (I grew up in a small northeast Nebraska town of about 9K) was usually there and it was social hour. The kids, after being given a couple bucks and a quick “be careful”, ran loose like a pack of wolves. God, it was so much fun.
When I started high school, my best friend and I decided we wanted to be the football team managers (i.e. water girls) for the team. My BFF and I had a lot of guy friends by the time we had hit high school, because we were done with the catty girl stuff. We pretty much only trusted each other and the boys, well…boys were just easy to hang out with. You could be a smart ass with them and for the most part, it was a more laid back kind of fun. No pressure to be something you weren’t. (My BFF went on to become Homecoming Queen; she was like Sporty Spice with a crown.) So, when the boys all started playing football, we wanted to hang out with them and not be stuck in the bleachers anymore. THAT was a blast. We got water, ran out on the field and got the tee after they punted, and we got to be a part of what makes Friday night so special in a small town. I got a taste of it again last year.
The high school my kids will go to is gargantuan in comparison. I graduated with 150. My kids will graduate with 450+. That may be small potatoes to some but it is quite daunting to a small town kid like myself. But we found some of our friends (the ones that had kids either cheering or playing on the team) and we had a blast. The kids scattered (but had to stay within sight) and we enjoyed a night being part of our town.
If you are feeling a disconnect with the town where you live, I encourage you to attend your local high school’s football games this fall.Communities are being hit hard right now with the tough economic times, so get out there and be a part of yours. You might not know anyone, or even feel like cheering, but you will make a connection. You will feel connected to your past, to where you came from. You will feel your own sense of nostalgia coming on and it will be as wonderful for you as it was for me.
And the most important thing of all, you will be fostering future nostalgia for your kids*.
Speaking of kids, we are having a surprise party for my daughter’s 13th birthday at tonight’s first high school football game! She loves football (like her mama) and it’s where her and her friends all want to be on a Friday night. I hope she’s surprised! We told her we weren’t going. I’ll let you know how it went!