“Do you know they call it ‘HOCO’ now,” This is a text from my friend Celena, a gal I’ve known since I was thirteen. We met on a soccer field, neither of us were playing the game. In a blink, we were best friends.
I’m in a coffeeshop with my daughters Hadley and Harper when the text comes through. It’s a rainy, cold Monday afternoon, and the three of us are supposed to be doing homework. Hadley’s working on an assignment where she is supposed to write about one important life event. (“You know,” she tells me, “like a soccer game.”) Harper’s working on solving math story problems, and I’m staring at a manuscript trying to decide whether it is me, or my manuscript that’s acting like a toddler who can’t get her way, when Celena texts me about HOCO.
I pick up my phone and see a picture of her son holding a sign that requests the honor of a girl’s presence at Homecoming, but it’s now called “HOCO.”
“That is the sweetest photo ever,” I text back. “And, no, I didn’t know it’s now called, ‘HOCO.'” I click on the emoji of the old woman with glasses and a bun — I’ve been using that one a lot, lately.
“Does it bring back memories?” Celena asks.
Any work I might’ve completed is forgotten. I am now in the ’90s, wearing Keds and my drill team outfit because I’m not trying to pretend that polyester pleated skirt, and that matching sweater with the orange OP logo smack in the center wasn’t my all time favorite outfit. Ever.
“Didn’t you hire a purple gorilla to ask a guy to HOCO?” I text, giggling like I’m 16 again.
“It was King of Hearts.” (That’s the dance where the girls ask the boys.) “And the gorilla was holding balloons.”
“Classic,” I text back.
Hadley and Harper want to know what I’m laughing at. “HOCO,” I tell them. They look at me like I’ve just sneezed. They are so behind the times.
“Remember the year I had impetigo?” I text. “That was fun times.”
I’d caught the world’s most unfortunate, most disgusting, most contagious rash in the wrestling room of my high school. Impetigo spreads as fast as a high school rumor. In fact, “Callie got impetigo from the wrestling room,” had a slight but effective revision by the time school was out that day. (Drop the “ing,” add “ers” to wrestle, and get rid of “room.”)
“Remember I had to wear my own mask for our ‘Thriller’ routine we performed at half-time?”
That year, Homecoming fell around Halloween. We drill-teamers donned orange T-shirts, black leggings, our sparkling white Keds, and we each wore a black mask, a prop that, because of my unfortunate rash, we all had to be careful no one accidentally took my infectious one. I think the coach wrote my name on the inside with a Sharpie.
We danced our way through Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” that October Saturday. We walked like zombies, and we did the running man and the flying splits to the cheers and roars of the crowd. The team’s final position was a pumpkin, and we rippled our way to the gourd’s death as Vincent Price laughed his deliciously wicked laugh.
To this day I don’t remember a minute of shame or sadness I might’ve felt over my skin condition or the rumors about it, but I can hear the crowd, feel the football field’s divots under my feet, and I can feel the pulsating beat of the music in my soul. I have never felt so at home with myself than when I was dancing.
I am thankful for the mini reunion Celena and I had on this rainy, new fall eve. She reminded me of the many mischievous, sweet, awkward, and hilarious ways we find home: in our schools, in our friends, in our first, second, and third crushes, in our sports, and in ourselves.
For this week’s prompt, write a fall coming home poem. Perhaps you want to write about a Homecoming Dance, or maybe you want to explore the ways you find home in your community this season.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s a poem from Monica Sharman that we enjoyed.:
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. You do not need to be a teacher to have instant admiration for her honesty, vulnerability, and true dedication to her students. She uses her own personal storytelling as the tool to teach one of the greatest stories of our time creating an instant connection to her students as well as to you the reader. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie. – Celena Roldan