With my ninth-grade son about to embark on his first homecoming, it is natural to think about my own. I was at first offended that this boy would think I would ruin his social life if I were to have anything to do with the event (see Homecoming 2010, Part I) . . . until I had a flashback of Homecoming 1985.
Let’s start at the beginning. My Grandma Lucille was the snazziest grandma in our little Iowa town. She wore sneakers, jeans, and sweatshirts when other grandmothers were wearing polyester pants and S.A.S orthopedic shoes. The woman had stylish taste all of her life, and her gifts to the grandkids were always stylish as well–except for one very important item. When I was 16 or 17, my classy grandmother gave me for my birthday the ugliest umbrella ever made. This treasure was royal blue with brown horses’ heads ALL over it. It wasn’t just one or two cartoon-like images. Oh no, these were attempts at realistic-looking horses’ heads in print all over the umbrella. I never touched that thing, but I also couldn’t just throw away a gift from a grandmother.
For a couple of years the horse umbrella went untouched in our front hallway until one fateful day in October, 1985. I was on the homecoming court my senior year along with two other senior girls and three boys. “Big deal” does not begin to cover what this meant to me. I was wearing a dress I loved, a plaid wool shirt dress in our school colors of red and black. This was one of life’s nice moments.
The senior candidates were all riding on one float, and the parade that afternoon started very close to my house. My mom came out to the yard to see us come by, and it had just started to drizzle and threatened to pour down rain. Because the parade had not yet started, we were stopped on the street. My mom saw the impending doom and was surely thinking like a rational mother when she yelled out to me, “Wait, let me get you an umbrella.” This is the moment the slow motion movie begins where I pray for the parade to start and move on because, like a psychic, I predict that she will grab the stupid horse umbrella and ruin my life forever. Still in slow motion in my mind, my mother races out of the house just in time to throw me the feared object. I cannot pretend I don’t see her, as all the kids see her and it’s a small town. They’ve all known my mother for their entire lives. I grab the umbrella and stuff it under my chair. The thing was just plain tacky and weird, but more importantly, no one else had an umbrella and it didn’t match my dress.
The umbrella went “missing” either during or after the parade and never made its way back to my house. Thank you, Mom, for trying to do the right thing. I guess it didn’t kill me, but I didn’t win Homecoming Queen. I blame it all on the horse umbrella.