According to the Oxford dictionary, homecoming is “an instance of returning home.” In our country, we often refer to Homecoming as an annual school celebration or return of an American soldier. For me, I’ve experienced both.
Sadly, I’ve encountered a few military homecomings throughout my 38 years. As a sister and spouse. All home safe, though. Unlike others who sacrificed their own lives for ours.
On the lighter side, I’ve obviously attended my fair share of homecoming dances; pep rallys parades, and games as a high-school student. Tradition. A ritual passed from one generation to the next. Although, time has affected the tradition, tremendously.
For most girls, it’s still about the dress, shoes, hair and make-up. But, things have changed, particularly in a big city like my own. Doesn’t matter if you have a date or go with a group. Dresses aren’t formal. Once floor-length are now short and tight. Heels are higher. Make-up is heavier. Girls are much more “mature.” Our youth has drastically aged.
However, the Friday night lights hit me in Chester, IL. Literally.
As we drove through the small, quiet town, bright-orange shirts and flags were visible at every turn. Children ran along the sidewalks in orange and black. And, yards were lined with canopy tents, chairs, and coolers. An infectious energy buzzed everywhere.
At the local Chinese restaurant, a table of young ladies laughed and ate dinner. One wore a fresh-flower corsage pinned to her suit jacket. She was dressed in a knee-length skirt and black blazer. Sweet demeanor. Simple but pretty. Elegant.
It wasn’t only Homecoming in Chester, but also, Alumni weekend. Many may already know, or some may be ignorant like myself, but experiencing a small-town, football game is absolutely amazing. Very humbling.
After barely managing to find a place, we finally parked on a cramped road along the back of the football field. A row of trucks, cars, tail-gaters, fans, and kids. All there for the Chester high-school, football game. A loyal sea of orange and black pride.
For me, respect. Grace. Honor just to be a spectator.
Sure, I’ve been to homecoming football games. But, this was nothing like ones back home. This was an event. An event celebrated by the entire town.
Cow bells rung. Truck horns blew. And, fire-works went off. Fire-works provided by the fans, with the entire town in attendance, including the police. All supporting their beloved Chester “Yellow-Jackets.”
The halftime didn’t consist of Pom girls dancing to the latest radio mix. No fights or commotion. Instead, it was dedicated to the Homecoming court. A formal ceremony led by the high-school band and dancers. The homecoming candidates were escorted by dates in luxury golf-carts. Each couple was then introduced as they walked the field’s centerline, through waves of orange and black poms. Fans from the bleachers were on their feet, clapping. And, cheers from outside the fence echoed in the night’s lights.
Small towns hold something completely different than a big city. Something very rare. It’s not only the friendly nods, waves, or polite gestures. It’s even more than looking after your neighbor. More than the manners. Places like Chester are simple. Still. Even with time.
Old-fashioned in the very best regard. Respect. Honor. Work-ethic.
These values and morals are grounded in small, country towns like Chester, IL. In their roots. Preserved for their future generations.
Although time has greatly affected our country, our youth especially, peaceful places, manage to escape that and pass their values, morals, and traditions on with loyalty. Pride.
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