Thursday Night Lights

My dad took me back to my alma mater to watch some of the football game tonight.

Let me explain why this is significant.

I live in a small town. (Don’t we all?) But I live in a “you will see everyone you know at a football game because everyone goes to every game” small town. (I didn’t see anyone I knew tonight, per se, which I can thank my lucky stars for.)

But it feels like every time I return to see a football game, I am a little bit further along in my life. And, thankfully, that means I’m always a little bit further removed from my high school experience. Which means I can walk through the gates without wrinkling my nose like I’ve smelled something horrible. Well, sort of.

I still have some sort of visceral reaction to the whole scene. The tiny munchkins that are supposed to be high school students (I don’t believe it.), the cheerleaders that only seem to multiply while the football players dwindle, and the cold iciness of the unforgiving bleachers. Let me tell you, it wasn’t my seat that was making me shudder.

As you can probably imagine, I wasn’t the football game watching type in high school. The only reason I would go to a football game was because my boyfriend played (for five seconds, maybe) and because I volunteered at the snack bar. What can I say? I like to help, and I like food. And I can’t stand football. I actually can’t stand the whole small town, Friday night lights culture.

But going back there tonight…

Nope. I felt the exact, same way. I felt like I was in high school again. No nostalgic reunion, no uplifting remembrance of the golden years. I was even recognized by the lady taking tickets as an alumni. And doesn’t that make you feel small? Like you haven’t gone anywhere. Sure, I haven’t left the town, but it suddenly felt like I had never left school, either.

So, I don’t want to relive my high school career ever again. Like, ever again. And it’s not that my high school experience was especially difficult. But it’s so nice to have all of those hormones and homework in the rearview mirror of my life. And that’s really the takeaway from all of this: even when you think one thing is going be your entire life, one person, one event, one environment, it can change. Actually, it probably will change. And like I said last night, that can be a great thing. But also revisiting a place where you once called home can make you eternally grateful for what you have, even if you don’t have a lot.

I hear you either love or hate your high school experience. Personally, I don’t feel that strongly about it. But the older I get, the more I can look on it with a certain fondness. Sort of.

Reality 1, Childhood 0

My childhood has taken some blows this week. 

First of all, the greatest comedian of our time, the man who voiced and played so many of my favorite characters, has died. I don’t have to tell you who I am talking about, and I am not going to make this post about him. The reason? I wouldn’t be able to do him justice, and I’ve seen too many people try. He was an amazing man, and no one will be able to truly follow (or capture) his footsteps.

As for the rest of this week and my childhood, it hasn’t looked this bad since I was told the Tooth Fairy was not real. (It’s okay. I know, I was traumatized too. We can talk after this.) 

I was recently very fortunate to be able to visit a place that I had wanted to go to since I was able to express that I needed a vacation. The place was Chincoteague Island, which is famous for its wild ponies.

As you can probably guess, I was like most young girls growing up. But instead of dreaming of a knight in shining armor to come and scoop me up, I was hoping to push him out of the saddle and take his horse instead. I loved horses, ponies, unicorns, pegasi, even horseflies. I wanted a Mustang (car) and a Denver Broncos jersey (football team) because their names briefly referenced horses. Chincoteague Island was the final frontier for my equine obsession.

Chincoteague is an amazing place, and I highly suggest that you go there. But for me ( and my mother voiced the same relief) I am so glad I didn’t go as a child.

For one, there were stuffed animal ponies in every single store. And, if I am remembering myself correctly as the bratty child I was, I would have pleaded with my mother to have every fluffy one of them in my grubby hands. Secondly, to see the ponies, you have to travel by kayak or pontoon boat to their island. My young, impressionable stomach might not have been able to arrive without losing my lunch. And, by the time we arrived to the island, I may have made my parents deaf by screaming, “WHERE ARE THE PONIES?” And finally, on this trip, you may really want to see the ponies, but they may not want to see you. When we got to the island, they stood in a pack (a beautiful, wonderful pack), refusing to close the distance between us and them. We got more than a glimpse of them but not much more than that. 

I loved my trip, and I would happily go again. But never as a 12-year-old. (Thankfully, that ship, or pontoon boat, has sailed.)

I began to realize, even though we all want to hang onto our childhood for dear life, there are some things we must experience as adults. With this new perspective, I came home, took the beanie babies hanging from my door, and hung up a truly magnificent horseshoe I purchased from a shop in Chincoteague. Certainly, it was tough for me to look into their bead-y eyes and deny them one more playtime, and I was saddened by the fact that, at some point, they had become completely covered by dust. But I realized, it wasn’t fair to keep them there anymore.

I’m sure we would all love to stay children forever. Scraped knees, stuffed animals, and sleeping whenever we wanted. But it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair to our parents (who have to take care of us), but it also isn’t fair to us. To the adults we would eventually grow up to be.

I’m a big proponent of keeping yourself young and maybe being a bit immature at times, but I am also a big fan of being the person you are meant to be. So, go on. Chase your childhood dreams but remember to keep something heavy enough to ground you. Say, a horseshoe, with plenty of luck.  

Please contact me directly for my support group hotline: “The Tooth Fairy Is Real In My Heart and In My Dentist’s Dreams.”