Thursday, November 23, 2006


Big Poppa posts this story reflecting on the meaning of family, spirit and homecoming. Our children and families are the highlight today as we rejoice in all the family rafting trips that we have nurtured. W.E.T. River Trips is greatful to all the families who have come rafting with us and know that this story will ring in the hearts of many as we all sit down and give thanks for all of our loved ones this Thanksgiving day. Eat hearty and love each other and we'll see you all this season on the river!

At virtually every high school in America, there is a primal ritual of spirit, competition and socialization that is categorized as "Homecoming!" In my 30 years in public education, I've grown accustomed to Homecoming Week as a benchmark of the Fall semester. The event rallies around the concept of the returning football team after competing at another school's stadium. Prior to the game there are usually special dress-up days, spirit competitions, rallies, bonfires, the football game, and the main event...The Dance!

My teen daughter is at an all-girl's high school and it was odd that I began to hear talk of homecoming activities in the fall of her freshman year. Huh? Why? Where is the football team? Whose coming home?

During the next few weeks the events of Homecoming became all encompassing. Soon I was bringing building materials, paint, and pizza to hordes of girls working late into the night to decorate their respective class corner of the gym. I also found myself going to the local supermarket to buy cases of canned goods and buckets of coins for class competitions. I also watched as my daughter stressed-out over choreographing her class dance.

Just as the big rally came up, I made plans to attend...only to discover that Parents of Underclassmen Were Not Allowed. The Gym apparently could not hold the crowd.

This went on each year as the mystery built... until this year... I could finally attend... my daughter was finally a Senior. Since she choreographed the dance... I really wanted to go. Besides my wife and I needed to know what the heck was going on in that gym!

In the public schools, the Homecoming Rally is always a raucous affair and the spirit activities engage about maybe a third of the kids. I expected the same percentage of involvement in an all-girl school. I soon discovered, I didn't have a clue...

My wife and I arrived 45 minutes early... we had been warned to arrive early to get a decent seat. As we stepped into the Gym wearing our powder blue senior shirts, we scooted into the parent's section that was already filled to capacity. A helpful volunteer then moved us. 10 minutes later, another volunteer moved us again...

The young women arrived en-mass starting with the freshmen. The teens flooded into the gym to synchronized chants and cheers as did each subsequent class until the gym was filled with cheers raising the decibel levels to that of an international airport's runway the day before Thanksgiving. Miraculously, on cue, the gym became silent as a prayer was read and opening remarks were made.

The Gym then erupted into chants and the girls cheered as seemingly, the entire staff of the school participated in a dance and lip-synch performance that surveyed two decades of music. The teachers and staff were amazing and the girls cheered every nuance and inside joke.

Next it was each class' turn. Beginning with the freshmen, each group performed elaborate and spirited skits with songs and dance focused upon various forms of current popular music and incorporating their class mascots. With each class the gym went berserk. Not only did the girls cheer for themselves, they also cheered the other classes with equal vigor in a spirit of sportsmanship.

After the Seniors performed, the bleachers emptied and the teens filled the gym floor as they sang along to songs while watching a slide show of the week's events (I recall hearing Shania Twain's I Feel Like a Woman and a cover of Cheap Trick's I Want You to Want Me.) Then by some unknown cue the girls filed back into the bleachers and listened to congratulations and thanks as the Seniors were named the winners of the Homecoming competition.

The entire assemblage of girls then went to the quad for pizza, jump houses, and a live Emo-like band. The dance was the next night.... I was amazed that so much energy and volume was generated and controlled by a large mass of adolescent girls. I remarked to my wife that boys might not be able to contain themselves and might become aggressive in a similar environment; however, these girls channelled their energy into their voices and dance to celebrate their individuality and power.

As my wife and I left the gym 3 hours after we arrived, we were spent. We simply stood as witnesses to the event, yet, the power of these young women drew us in. We understood that these young women will have no problem with the world they face... enpowered without even realizing it; their right to the status quo is one they naturally expect.
Big Poppa sitting at the head of the table eating a turkey leg!

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