Living

Of a Certain Age: High school football heaven

What is it that makes high school football nights so wonderful?

You can have your Carolina or your Clemson.

I'll take a Friday night in the metal bleachers, watching the sodium-vapor lights blaze on an emerald field, rooting for the kid in my third-block English class to make one more great tackle.

It's magical.

Or it was after Cliff and I crawled a few rows higher so I could actually see the plays instead of two sweaty little boys who had an uncanny knack for wandering into my sight line, blocking each play no matter on which yard line it took place.

I think I caught the high-school-football bug in Frankfort, Ind., where I lived when I first become a mom.

The Frankfort team bore a comical/unfortunate moniker: the Frankfort Hot Dogs.

We bought a cute little outfit for our first child, who was 1 then - knit shorts and a tiny shirt with a sporty little daschund - and each Friday night, we'd clamber into the stadium to root for the home team.

Later, when Maggie and Hannah were in the Irmo band - they both marched baritones, my strong girlies - I'd sit above the 15-yard line so I could hear "Louie Louie" and the cheerleaders close up. And I'd remember when I had been in the Irmo band many years before.

Since teaching at Gilbert High, I've been determined to attend a game. I told my students I would as soon as I could at least sort of walk. (I have a "walking boot" now.)

My husband, Cliff, wheeled me in nonetheless - the parking lot is lumpy and I've fallen enough already, thank you.

I insisted on sitting down by the band, both because old habits die hard and because so many band kids, flag-line gals and cheerleaders attend my English classes.

So I could hear Andrew and Kentrell on baritone and clarinet, respectively.

And see Tori and Carla whoosh their flags.

And watch Kaitlyn jump and shake pompoms. (What happened to those big ol' shakers? I liked them so much better than the things that look barely bigger than a bath puff.)

Gilbert even has a "homer" announcer - all part of the mix.

He'd announce that the home crowd had leapt to its collective feet whether it had or not. That it was doing The Wave. That the other team's scoring was "called" a touchdown - was it not one?

The high-schoolers with grease-painted I-N-D-I-A-N-S or G-I-L-B-E-R-T - never saw them all in a row - smeared on their chests (boys) and midriffs (girls) wandered about, hailing friends.

And the little kids - some big ones, too - grappled along the fence line for mini footballs and T-shirts tossed over their heads.

What a slice of Americana.

What a perfect night.

Until the lightning sent everyone scurrying for cover, anyway.

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