A crisp Friday night in fall: my parents drop me off at my best friend J's house. We drive a few blocks, join the crowds heading into the stadium, buy tickets and some snacks, and then find our favorite seats: along the perimeter where the band sits when they're not marching on the field. Under the bright lights, cheerleaders shake their pompoms, and the football players take the field. Let's go WO! The band plays the national anthem, then the school fight song, sung to the tune of "On Wisconsin":
on you panthers, on you panthers, wearing black and white/we'll defend our alma mater we will always fight you rah rah/on you panthers, on you panthers, fight on for your fame/fight panthers, fight and we will win this game!
The game begins. The band returns. We watch precious little game, instead preferring to flirt with certain trumpet players, chatting with our friend M, who plays clarinet. We make plans for after the game—gathering at J's house for Little Caesar's pizza, pop, and an intense game of running or dancing on the Nintendo power pad (circa 1991). One year, we decide to prank call a boy two of us like, and A chirps, "i want your bahhh-dee" into the phone as we dissolve into giggles.
As such behavior might suggest, my friends and I didn't attend many dances, and very few of the dress-up variety.
Oh, but some of us wanted too. Years later, when my baby brother, nine years my junior, was on the snowball court (he may have even been crowned king), I was jealous.
I longed for those taffeta dresses in bright colors with matching shoes.
After a long five hour meeting, and a coffee date with a friend, I head to the mall in search of a dress to wear to my cousin's wedding, a bridal shower gift, and a clearance rack bathing suit to wear to the gym. The few remaining bathing suits are juxtaposed against racks of wool and down coats. I select two, clearly geared towards women with body concerns, with tags proclaiming "lose 10 lbs in 10 seconds!" I locate the nearest fitting room, nestled in the junior's dress department. Early teen-aged girls laden with bright, short dresses stand in line, or pop out of the dressing room. Several moms line the wall, arms filled with rejects.
I am the same age as these moms.
As I struggle into the miraclesuit (it takes longer than 10 seconds to squeeze into the super-spandex fabric suit), I listen to the girls talk about the dresses, their voices a mingling of English and Hmong.
I peel the suit off, and reassemble my professional attire. I buy the suit.
I drive home, calling G to make dinner plans. As I pass several small-town high schools, I look for bright lights and crowds; I listen for cheering and a smart cadence. Dark and quiet, it must be an away game.
I remember moments I've forgotten: sipping scalding watery hot cocoa to warm up at those late season games, stuffing my hands in the pockets of my unzipped jacket. A heart full of longing for a boyfriend, for a date to a dance, for a pretty dress, for a glimmer of popularity. A self blessed with smart, kind, positive friends; a loving, stable, supportive family; a mind eager to absorb, learn, grow; and dreams of endless possibility.
A block away from home, I spot the bright porch light, welcoming me home. Upstairs, hot pizza and a swell guy await. I'll put on my new dress and twirl.
Friday night...so full of lights.