Everyone says it won't be the same.
No one elaborates.
There's that rumble that seeps out of the cracks of doors & windows repeatedly, "ohh... it's friday night again" I would tell myself as I walked the routine walk into the gym for the pep rallies. So hot. SO hot, humid, and loud. Girls go flying in the air & shades of yellows & blue spark all around. They were not quiet at all, and they wanted us to join them in screaming to the tops of our lungs until our faces were blue & our eyes were bulging - and we did, and we loved it.
Then the boys would walk in with their khaki pants on & that old tattered jersey, but they wore it with pride. Unlike the girls representing, they were reverent, focused, and in the midst of becoming mentally prepared. It was friday. It would soon be friday night. That meant, it would be time for friday night football.
There's a different smell in the air on friday nights. It is a smell that can take me back to those hometown bleachers no matter where I am. It is a smell of victory, sweat, defeat, hard work, sportsmanship, dedication, and school spirit. It leads me all the way down those halls, up the hill, across the gravel, over to the sidewalk, & up the stairs to search for a seat. A seat where I can sit to watch my classmates, my best friends, my not so best friends, coaches, and my favorite cheerleaders make the night everything that it's about. It's the smell of high school football, and it's one i'll never forget.
The sun is almost setting and the boys have yet to warm up. I'm scrambling to grab my camera & get out the door because I need a little socialization time before I get on the field to shoot. I would usually make it just in time to see them lined up at the locker room getting ready to make their way outside. The cheerleaders show up with their hair teased & curled. The ribbons bled with blue & gold, and their eyes shimmered with sparkly shadow. There was plenty of time for hanging signs, but they were always in a rush: a rush of excitement, anxiousness, and some of them even nerves.
Back to the players who were now circled around the edge of the field, yelling numbers & spelling "Vikings". Sweat was building on their brow, and butterflies were entering their throat to settle into their stomaches for the next couple of hours.
The scoreboard calmly counted down the seconds 'til kickoff, and the choir made their way to the top of the bleachers in search for a microphone. The crowd is gathering, and the lights seem to be gettting brighter. The players & cheerleaders are all aligned on top of the spray painted box with their hands intertwined with the ones who stand beside them. There are kids running wild with energy who stop in their tracks for the next few minutes, and everyone takes reverence as the preacher prays over tonight's game, players, and visitors. The anthem rings loudly across the town. It is loud, beautiful, and always a little emotional for me. It's that time again.
The football is kicked off, and the crowd cheers accordingly. The rest depended on the players & the inevitability of the game, of course.
I can remember the feeling I had on graduation day. It was really like any other normal day [until right before we walked out because I had to give a welcome, and I sounded like a crazed person giving a "welcome" at prom, and there was 5x the people at graduation]. I wasn't sitting at home saying "I can't believe this is happening, yaddy, yaddy, yadda..." And the same feeling consumed me after the tassels turned. I didn't cry during the "ceremony", and I wasn't going to need any type of depression pill to tide me over for the next few days. It was summer. I was free. No school, tests, games, etc.... It was good - for awhile.
Then.... softball started. & i went back to all those
My mind then drifted to spring slow-pitch. The first few practices were so cold that it felt like tiny needles were seeking your face as a pin cushion. The bat was heavy & the sting that shot through your fingers, palms, wrists & elbows was crucial. You wore so many layers that throwing the ball was nearly impossible. in fact, we looked like the Michelin man trying to do pilotees most of the time,
I loved it. I loved putting on that jersey knowing that I had a team to lead & represent. I loved slipping into those cleats & making my way to the field. The rattle of the fence as we got rowled up, the echoes of the cheers when we hit a nice ball, the claps of a good throw made after an outstanding play in the field, all of it rushes back every time I see an empty field. I imagine the ghosts of my graduating team out there making the best of all the games we had left. The laughs & cries on those two fields will never again be replaced with our own individual salty tears or hot breath. It was ours at one point in time. Our sweat, our blood, and our love for the game dripped off of our bodies onto the field, and it will stay there. It may get trampled by cleats, slides, and old athletic tape - but guarantee that it'll be there, and we'll never forget any of it.
Then I allow myself to come back to reality and take into consideration the things that are in store for my life. I can only look forward now, but I can also hope that those who are in the position that I was last year take these things to heart. I hope they write down in their memory the way they feel when they know they're playing one last game. Stepping across that foul line is subtracting each time you do it, and although maybe at some point you wish you weren't sweating to death or freezing, & maybe sometimes you wish it hadn't rained so that the ball wouldn't be so slippery & the field wouldn't be so muddy..those are memories. Those are the times you will never, I mean ever, have back.
& now all that's left is to, in some ways, live vicariously through the students that have the opportunity now.