A light rain falls on the field. Around me the noise is deafening. Mostly strangers, adorned in caps, t-shirts, and polos in the school colors, huddle under the overhang. I sit in a folding chair behind a folding table and wait for the game to resume, for the crowd to return to the bleachers. The players were called off the field, the spectators out of the stands, because lightening had registered on some sensor.
This is Friday Night Lights in Texas, to which I have been and will remain a stranger albeit I have spent years attending football games at the local high school. My younger son is a senior now, and I have staffed the PTA table for seven of this school’s eight years of existence. My older son played football one year to gain access to the weight room; my younger son has been in the marching band, whose members claim that football is what happens before and after the halftime show.
It is homecoming night, albeit in the end, the crowning of the royal court will be postponed until later, at a dance out of the rain, once the guest team has gone home.
Tonight the girls wear tremendous corsages hanging heavily with ribbons and other adornments; the boys wear similar but smaller ones on bands around their arms. The first year we experienced homecoming my older son disappointed his girlfriend because he didn’t arrive to school with a corsage. I told him to tell her it was his mother’s fault—that she was a “foreigner” and unfamiliar with such traditions. Even more complicated, he was voted a member of the royal court his senior year. We had little idea what this meant but managed to get him to the field in a suit. Some of his classmates chanted for him to display his now well-sculpted abs: he pulled up his dress shirt and they cheered.
I look at the groups chatting around me. I used to know many of the parents, but as my younger son ages out of the school system so do I, and I know fewer and fewer families. I look across the field, the light rain visible in the bright lights. Just as I don’t know these parents, they don’t know me. I have served on one PTA board or another, sometimes two, for seventeen years, and I have been on multiple school district committees. Most germane to my nostalgic glance across the field—recognizing that this school and I are coming to the end of our association—is the extensive investment I made in having this school exist at all. Countless board meetings, several committees, and, closest to my heart, the fight to keep the auditorium when it was almost cut from the budget—all of these hours devoted to what is now an organizing principle in the community. It has amazed me how the community has coalesced around a school, a football team, a band….
But my role in this is the past. I am now an older woman sitting behind the PTA table, trying to sell another t-shirt to help fund senior scholarships, staff luncheons, and the like. As much as I am fading from this community, it is time to let it fade from me. My Friday night lights are coming to an end.