Posted by FacelessGraceless

I'm going back to my hometown this weekend. It's Homecoming, which means a parade, a community lunch, and a football game.

When you're in a small town, most people are over-extended. The cheerleaders are also on the golf team, and in the marching band, and might be candidates for the Homecoming court, too. The football players are all using their pickup trucks to pull the various floats, and have to man the grills at the lunch immediately following the parade. The mayor of the town could also be on the firetruck with his fellow EMTs, or marching with his son's boy scout troop. It's not unusual to see the same person come through the parade twice; the High School band goes through first, planned that way for years, so that the seniors can jump in to convertibles and ride through the parade again at the end as members of the Homecoming court.

Homecoming is the only day of the year that it's difficult to find a parking spot downtown. With most of the storefronts vacant, only the post office and the tavern get many visitors on an ordinary day. People are loyal to that tiny town, though. Everyone who lives in town will put on their warmest clothes and stand on the sidewalks to watch the parade, even if their children are well past the age of participating. Alumni come back from their big-city lives, showing their Gymboree-clad children where "Mommy and Daddy used to live."

I don't know how many more years we'll be celebrating Homecoming in that small town. Every year the crowds on the sidewalk are a little bit smaller, with a lot more gray hair. Each year the marching band is a little smaller, and more freshmen and sophomores are wearing varsity football jerseys, to make sure that there are enough bodies on the team. As it stands now, the school district is staring consolidation in the face. They might merge with a nearby town to form a new school district, with a school somewhere between the two towns. And if that happens, where will we all gather to watch the tissue-paper floats dissolve in the rainy parade? How will we find those friends that we only see once a year? Will strangers serve our lukewarm baked beans in an overcrowded gymnasium?

Homecoming is bittersweet, because it's hard to know what home we will be coming to next year.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 03, 2008 and is filed under , , . You can leave a response and follow any responses to this entry through the Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) .