The doorbell rings at precisely 6:00 p.m. The handsome football captain is here to pick up the beautiful drill team lieutenant for their Senior Homecoming Dance. The flowers are exchanged, and the conversation is easy.
By now, the date is an extended member of our family. Instead of grilling him about the plans and curfew, my husband is more interested in a play-by-play recap about last night's football game. We make this look sooooo easy. A "Seventeen" magazine dream scene taking place in our formal living room.
Don't kid yourself. Nothing is ever this easy. This flawless precision takes years to come together. Don't I know it well. We tell the incredibly gorgeous couple to have a great time and shut the door.
By the way, where is her brother? He's usually in the background somewhere. The back door crashes open. Yep. Here come the boys. Just making sure all has gone well. They were checking on the oldest in their crop of friends: a nervous freshman guy getting ready for his first school dance. This Gang of Five are experts in all things Homecoming. We all earned our stripes the hard way. We reminisced and talked about THAT night. About how we have all grown and learned from the experience. I just hope they saved their friend from the Homecoming horror story.
Just three short years ago, it was our daughter who was the nervous freshman. Her brother was a happy, carefree 4th grader in elementary school. Our lives were simple, revolving around football (of course), baseball, dance lessons and making the high school drill team. High school was a new world for our family, and we were just settling in to the traditions.
One lazy Sunday, our world was turned upside down by a phone call. My daughter was at dance class. She was wildly anxious to get home. An anonymous phone call said she had a special package on the front porch. Homecoming was in three weeks. Could this be an invitation? We drove well beyond the speed limit to arrive to an empty front porch. No package.
At 14, ecstasy turns to despair in about 15 seconds. As I am trying to put together the important parts of the story, I notice a bag in the living room. a bag full of baseballs. I gently ask the gang of 5 where they got a bag of brand new baseballs?
Bag of Tricks
My 10 and 11-year-old boys could only surmise that their fall baseball coach had left the baseballs on the porch for them to use in practice. They had taken the balls to the park to toss around and a bit of impromptu batting practice.
I grabbed a baseball for inspection. It had a number on it. It also had a letter on it. Always a fan of Nancy Drew, it took me only a moment to realize that these baseballs were not for batting practice; they spelled out a Homecoming invitation!!!!
We grabbed all the baseballs we could find. We calmed down our daughter and told her it was going to be ok. The clever young man was sending a puzzle. The letters H-O-M-E-C-O-M-I-N-G? Turn the baseballs over and on the other side would be the numbers of a phone number; the number of her secret admirer. Even a group of 10-year-olds could see the genius in the plan.
There was just one problem: after searching high and low around the house, in dog houses and alleys, we were still missing the balls with the letters N and G; critically important numbers, since we knew the area code, and figured the first three numbers were probably the same as ours. But there are 10,000 combinations of numbers without the N and the G!
With the sun setting on a cool October day, we found the N and G balls bobbing in the lake by the park. So who goes in? With a near hysterical girl swearing that the opportunity to call has passed her by, there's no time for rock, paper, scissors. This is job for her younger brother. He returns with the balls from his frigid swim to cheers and we ride home victorious. We had found the N and G, the last two digits of the all-important phone number, our daughter's date to the Homecoming Dance, and all were happy!
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
The next few weeks were a blur. Nothing is more frightening to a younger brother than a big sister. The boys steered clear as we girls navigated the world of party dresses, shoes, earrings, spray tans, makeup, eye brow waxing, manis/pedis, hairdos and boutonnières. The big day finally arrived and getting through the To Do list was grueling. So much beauty, so little time. We got it all in and, with camera in hand, we were all ready for the doorbell to ring at 6:00p.m. and get this party started!
The call came at five minutes before the appointed hour. Her date had been in a baseball tournament. His team was winning and there was one more game to play. He would be there as soon as he could. Looks of disappointment descended on all of our faces. The waiting was too much for the boys. They took to the streets, posting lookouts in trees and on bikes, waiting for the first signs of a black SUV turning the corner on two wheels. I heard their whistle. There was no time for formality. I was running my beauty queen out the door, as the center fielder's bouquet of flowers was passed from kid to kid, and finally to me, so I could hand the flowers to my daughter.
In all the rush, I did not even get a picture of him, decked out in blue blazer, baseball uniform and cap. The couple had missed the picture party, most of the dinner and a frantic dad was trying to catch up to the group. All I could ask was if they won. They did. The tournament finals was scheduled for the next morning, bright and early, at 8:00 a.m. It was going to be an early evening.
I felt sorry for his mom and dad, but I also realized that they could be ME and my husband in about 5 years. I resisted the temptation to judge. An honor guard of bikes and boys followed the car down the street. It was well after 8:00 p.m. She called me to pick her up at 10:30 p.m. Her date had just left. The pressure of the tournament final had gotten to dad, too. He was sound asleep. I grabbed my son to keep me company for the drive. We found her, and she was in good spirits. She was raving about how gorgeous and mature all the senior girls looked. Their dresses were the best. Something to shoot for - one day.
We Are Family
How fun to laugh about it all now. I think that is the true meaning of Homecoming anyway. It is a night to reminisce with friends about the past and fun times. My now 8th grade neighbor asks if I still have the baseballs. I answered that I did. I see the light bulb go off in his head. He asks if he can use them next year for his first Homecoming dance to ask a date. I tell him that of course he can, but asked him whether he realized that his date would be calling a 19-year-old college freshman in another state to ask to the party, and that he might want to re-think that plan! More laughter at who would be more horrified! We ponder where my daughter will be next year and whether she swould come home to help the ninth grade boys in the neighborhood start their new traditions. We agree she can just call and check in. We have this covered.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?