This is the weekend of my high school reunion. Twenty years have flown by and now we are all adults with jobs, mortgages, and actual responsibilities. And if we had only known then what we know now…
Dom and I went to the Viking Homecoming football game. Aaron went with us. Neither of my men had ever had the experience of a high school football game on a balmy Friday night, so I was thrilled to share with them what was such a prominent part of my teenage experience.
Various scenes throughout the evening made me smile with complete satisfaction that high school is still a bubble all to itself. And other scenes reminded me of the ups and downs inside that bubble. Here is what I observed:
High school football does not discriminate your age at the gate. You will pay full price whether you are 8 or 80. $21 later, we were granted entrance. (I have never before in my life paid for entrance into a game – one of the perks of being in the band!)
I had buried deep in my memory the smell of the stadium at night. There is excitement under the stadium lights, just as the sun is dropping into the horizon. And the announcer’s voice has the ability to alter time – at least for me.
We saw my nephew, Jacob, now a Freshman at Airline. He was four months old at our wedding, which you know was juuuuuust yesterday. I was struck by how much he fit in with the crowd – handsome and carefree – and I marveled at how he had grown. Then I realized Aaron will be a Freshman in four short years, and I had to wipe my eyes.
Confession: I used to not like kids. Yeah, I know it sounds like a stupid thing to say, but bear with me. I really didn’t like kids – until I had kids of my own. And then, I noticed that my tolerance of kids grew with their age-progression. I liked all children younger than mine – consistently. I have never cared for teenagers that I didn’t know personally. I think, in my Peter Pan way of refusing to admit that I’m getting older, I still felt too “close” in age to them. (Seriously, until very recently I still felt 25.) But for the first time this weekend, I began to see teenagers as a mother sees them rather than as a peer sees them. As I observed the students in the stands Friday night, I could imagine Aaron and Victoria in their places, and I know that will be my reality all too soon.
I observed that high school girls can still be cruel. And high school boys can still be perfect gentlemen.
We hadn’t really thought about it before last night, but it occurred to us as we watched hoards of students texting and snapping iPhone pics, that even our parents didn’t have cell phones when we were in high school. I swear, at the moment of that realization I felt another hair turn gray.
As we left the game shortly after half-time (Aaron was dog-tired) I looked into the empty end-zone near the exit. For a brief moment, I saw myself standing just past that end-zone with my friends where the lights don’t shine as bright, waiting in preparation for the half-time show. I remembered the nervousness I would feel each half-time, the bounce of the grass, the sound of the drums, and the faces that surrounded me – some I will never see again. That end-zone didn’t look as large and overwhelming as it once did, but it still looked like home – the home of my nerdy, naïve teenage past. That quiet, proud little dark-haired girl I used to be probably still roams the halls and haunts the practice field with a thousand other ghosts, reveling in what proves for most to be the last bastion of innocence and the premier experience of loyalty.