Nostalgia really is a curious state of mind.
This came into stark reality for me over fall break, when I went back to one of my high school’s football games for the first time since my senior year, four years ago now. The game was my alma mater’s Homecoming game, and the majority of the stands was packed with fans bundled up in blue and gold attire. All the way at the end of the home section, though, the students dutifully followed our Homecoming tradition of orchestrating a whiteout, and the seniors were sporting the usual togas, despite the rapidly declining temperature.
Half of me wanted to just shake my head and turn to my mom sitting next to me and completely bash them for being so flamboyant in their support of our football team, which had yet to record a win prior to the end of that game.
But the other half of me ached that I wouldn’t ever get to stand in those bleachers under those circumstances again. Sitting with my parents on the complete opposite end of the bleachers, I felt excluded in a way I never really did four years ago when I was still a proud Bulldog.
Another thing that made me feel ancient was just looking out at the players on the field. They were tiny. I can still remember being a freshman and thinking how huge and intimidating the football players always seemed to look walking through the halls, even if they weren’t actually large in stature. These kids looked like they should still be in middle school.
This initial feeling of exclusion, though, quickly gave way to something a lot more sentimental and disgustingly sappy. Despite the fact that it would probably be socially unacceptable for me to run over to the student section and attempt to lead a cheer and relive my glory days, I realized how refreshing it is to see the way the new generations of students are passing through this stage of their lives.
Knowing that the current students are still participating in the same rites of passage my classmates and I did reminded me that although our time in those shoes has passed, we’re still a part of the school and town’s collective history. Granted it’s not the most exciting town ever – opposing student sections often take up the refrain “Start your tractors!” at the end of an unsuccessful campaign on the field or the court – but it is still ours.
And although I hardly saw any faces of students or parents that were familiar to me, seeing a couple of my favorite faculty members and catching up for even just a couple minutes was worth the frostbite I’m pretty sure I developed in my toes.
In a couple years, there probably won’t be much of a reason for me to go back to my hometown. It’s sad, but it’s true. Once my parents move, I can’t really see a reason why I would go back, unless I’m just feeling sentimental and happen to be in the area.
So instead of complaining about the cold, the sloppy play of the football team or the obnoxious chatter of 14-year-old girls, I sat back and took it all in. When the team clinched its first win of the season with a touchdown in the waning minutes, my dad asked if I was ready to head out. I said no. I decided to stay and take in the thrill of the ugly victory’s finality with the rest of the spectators as the time ticked inescapably down to zero.