Christmas come early is here again: homecoming weekend.
My earliest memory of the American phenomenon of homecoming is also my most embarrassing one. In seventh grade I joined the cheerleading squad. The halftime show of the annual homecoming football game was always our biggest event of the season. I rehearsed dutifully in the weeks leading up to the performance, and much to my relief, I only messed up once during the actual performance.
After the performance (on the 50-yard line, no less), our coach stood in the announcer’s booth and called off each cheerleader’s name. As we heard our names called we were to “spirit” off of the field and run to the end zone — to raucous applause, naturally. I stood beaming as Mrs. Scala began calling off names, scanning the crowded bleachers whilst trying to appear “cool” and “cheerleader-y.”
I snapped to attention when I heard Claire Dooley’s name called: I had missed my name. I panicked, hoping that maybe Mrs. Scala had messed up the order and would realize her mistake. But time seemed to speed up and soon she had called the last name. Ashley Vicere turned to me, shrugged unceremoniously and sprinted off the field. I was stuck standing alone on the 50-yard line staring at a crowd of children and parents (most of whom knew my name) whose facial expressions all seemed to read “Why … What is she doing?”
Someone must have caught the attention of Coach Scala, who hadn’t noticed that I’d never left. She got back on the loudspeaker, and, stifling laughter, yelled, “And last but not least, Margaret Delaney!” The crowd laughed as I hurried back to my teammates, and as I was running I heard a chorus of “The cheese stands alone!” start up in the stands. I looked up to find that it was my mom who had started the song.
Three years later, I was voted homecoming princess during my junior year of high school (“The cheese stands alone” no more!). This too was announced at an all-school pep rally in the gym. We were presented with sashes and snapped a group photo for the yearbook. As I began to walk back to my seat in the bleachers, I tripped and fell: My sash had slipped off unbeknownst to me and gotten tangled around my ankles. The tradition of public humiliation during homecoming events continued.
Despite these missteps, I have always loved celebrating homecoming: the camaraderie, the crisp fall air, the parades … what’s not to love, really? But I think that homecoming as it was intended reaches its fullest expression in college: Alumni flock back to the Hilltop for a weekend of revelry and bonding alongside current students. When I was a freshman at Georgetown I had no idea the extent to which homecoming would be celebrated on campus. I assumed it would entail the usual football game and tailgate, but that would be about it. But as time has gone on, I have grown to love the other events campus puts on, whether it be field races on Traditions Day or reunions for veterans of campus organizations. The festivities make this weekend nothing short of a holiday.
But my hands-down favorite event is still the traditional Saturday tailgate. It is, in many ways, my perfect day: It starts with bagels and eggs, segues into hours of dancing and singing along to classics like “Centerfold” and “Jesse’s Girl” with my friends (who knew a generation raised in the ‘90s could hold such a deep affinity for ‘80s cover bands?) and then inevitably ends in naps for everyone. It just doesn’t get better than that, really.
There are other perks as well: As a senior now I know significantly more alumni than I did as an underclassman, and so this in turn has added another reason for me to look forward to this weekend, for it marks the return of old friends and familiar faces. I love that in many way it always feels as though they’ve never really left, despite how drastically different their post-college lives may be. I know that sooner than I know it I’ll count myself amongst their ranks.
As I think back to my freshman year when I didn’t know many — if any — alums of Georgetown, I still remember that homecoming was the first time that I realized that I was a part of something so much bigger than myself. That I shared in a great, far-reaching tradition with all of these veritable strangers, and to celebrate that with so many people was pretty exhilarating. Because this weekend, we’re all home.
Margaret Delaney is a senior in the College. I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE appears every other Friday.