September 23, 2005

In Praise of Autumn Fridays

It is absolutely gorgeous in the Twin Cities today. It's currently sixty-two degrees, and the breeze that is blowing is, for the first time since spring, a wee bit on the crisp side. The sun is shining and the sky is that gorgeous shade of deep blue you only see when the smog clears out. The trees are beginning to turn every so slowly and little hints of red and yellow stand out amidst all the green. The squirrels that (over)populate my yard are scampering around said yard, gorging themselves on acorns from the six oak trees we have, in between battles with each other. Earlier this morning, on the branches of the tree right next to my office window, I was privileged to watch yet another squirrel reenactment of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as they chased each other, jumping from branch to branch. What this death match was about one can only guess, but I believe it has something to do with a female, following the rules laid down long ago by Mother Nature. The only difference between the squirrels and Chow Yun-Fat and Ziyi Zhang was that humans were much quieter. Squirrles are very noisy when they fight, filling the air with the quick crunching of claws meeting bark, as they scamper up the tree at lightning speed and then across the branches to meet their destiny.

I returned from Lake Harriet earlier and I was reminded of all the joys of a fall Friday when I walked past the local high school's football field. Apparently there is a game there tonight. I don't know who they're playing or what the team's chances for a victory are, but it's the first home game and I couldn't help but be a little excited for the people that were there: it's the first time they get to partake in the tradition. The cheerleaders were dressed in their school colors---purple and white---and were decorating all the entrances to the field with balloons and streamers. The marching band was on the field and it seems, after listening to them march around the neighborhood for the past two months, that they've finally got their stuff together. They were playing I Believe I Can Fly but they'd not only upped the tempo, they'd funked it up a bit as well. The tuba section was having fun on the field, and the drum line finally sounded as if they were one humongous drum, instead of fifteen poorly arranged snares and bass drums. It was a nice thing to watch. It reminded me of all the promise that beautiful autumn Fridays possessed in high school.

The day would start off slowly, but it would hold promise. A blue sky, a hint of warmth would soon be found when the sun worked its way toward its zenith. The grass was still green, but it had been cool enough to kill off some of the more annoying varieties of insects that buzzed about, bothering you. You'd drag yourself through whatever class you were dreading that day. Was it a test in Chemistry? Or was a paper due in Sociology? Or was Sr. Rosaria on the war path once again because you flubbed the translation of the one sentence of Caesar's Gallic Wars she'd given you. It didn't matter. There was the hope of the evening hours to get you through the rest of the school day, which always seemed like such a waste. Surely being stuck in school on such a gorgeous day was an affront to God. But since that creative excuse wasn't going to fly with the principal, Itsy Bitsy Betsy, also known as Miss Kish---the world's shortest school prinicpal, EVER---you instead focused on other things. You chatted with your friends about your plans for the evening. There was, as always, a football game to go to. You had to go to the game if it was a home game. There was simply no choice about it. After the game there was a dance at a rotating selection of schools. You worked on sorting out the day's truly important business: whose parents were going to drive you where so you wouldn't miss anything. And it was important you shouldn't miss anything...because Friday nights were when you got to go and ogle the boys.

As I've mentioned before, I went to a Catholic all-girls high school. Obviously, we didn't have a football team; but we had the boys' school down the road---and they had a football team. This school is conveniently called Prep, which is short for Creighton Prepatory School. At that point in time, Prep didn't have its own football field, so their games were held at UNO's field. For a few Friday nights every fall, we'd work our way over to UNO to watch Prep pummel whichever opponent they were up against that week. We'd find seats in the large stadium and then we'd sit there and watch the boys, while pretending we were really watching the game. When you're a freshman, you actually believe that some cutie is going to come on over and talk to you and you wait with bated breath for it to happen. By the time you're a sophomore, however, you've been disabused of that notion. Junior year is when it finally happens and it doesn't seem as interesting as you'd thought it would be. By senior year, well, you're a bit beyond it, or so you'd like to think.

Then, when the football team was done with their pummelling, you'd go and find the car of whomever the lucky parent was who'd pulled the mid-shift chauffeuring stint, and you'd be off to some high school gym to gyrate madly for hours on end. Omaha's a pretty Catholic town: there are---counting on fingers---seven high schools (that I can think of---there are more now) and each of them would rotate hosting a dance or two. So, you'd go and you'd pay five bucks to get into some high school gym where either a garage-band-done-good or a DJ awaited you. My generation apparently didn't have any problems with dancing. This was not a situation where the boys lined the walls and the girls were the ones on the floor. Nosireebob. Everyone got out there and danced and the only time you saw anyone on the sidelines was when they were winded and needed to take a break. You might have snuck outside to get some air with your friends and some boys may have followed, hoping to chat you up. Or you might have met someone while you were waiting for a coke in the cafeteria. You may have even gotten friendly enough with one of them to find a place for a quick make-out session, or you might have been wholly annoyed with one of them because they wouldn't leave you the hell alone. You might have found a new crush, or you might have been crushed by the one you fancied. It was an adolescent soap opera and I have to think it was just as amusing as hell for the chaperones to watch. But, no matter, because as always, time is fleeting. These things were always over with by midnight, so you'd round up your friends, you'd walk into the now quite chilly, pitch black parking lot to find the unlucky parent who'd pulled the chauffeuring late shift and you'd work your way home.

Sometimes you'd be highly satisfied with the evening. Everything would have gone right and you would have actually worked up the courage to talk to the boy you liked---or they'd finally gotten the clue that you liked them. But those were far and few between. The night would, most likely, be unsatisfying. Someone would start a rumor about you and when you finally heard it, it would make your face flush with embarrassment and shame. Some boy might break your heart by ignoring you. You might get into a fight with one of your friends. It didn't really matter what happened, but the posters for the dance should have had the warning "potential adolescent hell" pasted all over them. Yet, surprisingly enough, the potential for it to be an awful night didn't really hit you until it was all over with. Somehow, you always hoped for the best when you started off the evening.

I have to wonder what Friday nights are like for today's teenagers. Are they similar to the ones I endured, even though fifteen years has passed? Or is the entire process different? What do they do after football games nowadays? Do they go to parties? Do high schools even host dances anymore? Or have they canned that activity because it's just a lawsuit waiting to happen? It's all very curious. I'm sure, however, the overall emotional experience is the same. They're probably looking forward to the evening, and they have their hopes and expectations as I did. Some of them will wind up on the positive side of the evening, and some will wind up on the negative, because that's just the way the world works. Ah, anyway...I wonder.

But they'll at least have a football game. Thankfully that much hasn't changed.

Posted by Kathy at September 23, 2005 03:24 PM | TrackBack

Things havn"t changed over the past 50 some years, why now?

Posted by: Me at September 23, 2005 07:33 PM

That was a wonderful tribute and I enjoyed it thouroughly. Thanks, Kathy. Really good stuff.

Posted by: RP at September 26, 2005 09:37 AM

In rural America, it's not only the kids at the game, but literally half the town. Everyone is there Friday nights. (Me and the hubby excepted, we're city folks after all.)

Games have been on a few weeks, and my kids go to them, but in reality, never to watch the game itself. It's all about the social scene. Skateboarding with pals for the Boy and hanging with friends for the Girl.

Out here, there isn't a dance every week. They're occasional, Homecoming etc.

High school and Junior High are still both soap operas with the same cliques we had. That will never change.

Posted by: Sandy at September 27, 2005 01:09 AM
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