I was usually on my way out the back door as soon as we were released from class for our high school pep rallies, so when Holly, my 14-year-old cheerleader step-daughter, called last night asking me to come to hers today, I immediately thought about trying to find a way out the back door of this request too. But instead I told her I would ask my boss if I could take off and be there, after all it was the last one of the season and I do like watching people dance. And wouldn't you know it, my boss said it was fine if I wanted to go.
The game tonight is the big one of the year. It's like a civil war of junior high football between the East Side team and West Side team of RJHS. The gym was all decorated with balloons and banners saying things like "West is best!" and "We bust ours so we can kick yours!" When we walked in the band was getting all tuned. About a million junior high kids were milling about and laughing, all in their school colors of red and black, or red and white depending on their East/West allegiance. As we found our spots on the "parent's side" of the gym I watched the kids, and it looked so fun to be young and excited about something. Then I remembered so clearly what it was like to be that age. It should have been fun, it really should have. I think it probably was but I was too busy nursing that chip on my shoulder to realize it. I spent most of my time being, or at least feeling, awkward and trying to adopt the personalities of my friends. These kids were probably all doing the same thing, but I wish I could have told them something like "hey, just be yourself" or "this is the time of your life, enjoy it" or "don't do drugs." You know, all those things that everyone tells junior high kids, things that everyone told me, that are totally meaningless in a 14-year-old mind. Some listen, and I hope that these do because they looked like they were having so much fun.
At the beginning a girl came out and sang the national anthem, and she was really good. They then paraded couples of dressed-up candidates for some king/queen-type of award. As they smiled and walked along their designated route to the middle of the gym a very unenthusiastic announcer, probably a vice-principal or science teacher, talked about who they were, who their parents are, what kind of things they like to do in their spare time, never deviating from, or possibly making up, what had to have been written on a card in front of him. "Bobby is in the Nicholas Sparks fan club and enjoys hanging with friends in his spare time." That had to be a joke, right? It seems like you'd either be in the Nicholas Sparks fan club OR "hang" with friends, but both? There were a few mentions of Justin Bieber and four wheelers, but the majority of the kids enjoyed spending time with friends, and some family and friends. That whole ceremony could have gotten pretty boring if the Playboy-esque descriptions of what these kids liked didn't carry it. It was a fascinating little window into what kids are doing these days. That Nicholas Sparks thing was totally unexpected, maybe 14-year-olds are getting something different from "The Notebook" than lonely 30-somethings.
The king and queen of something were crowned and then it was time for the real rallying to begin. The band started up, the cheerleaders took the floor and the kids in the stands started yelling. The East Side kind of did their thing first. Their cheerleaders did their routine, and their dance team, and then one of the football players got up and squeaked though a kind of encouraging talk about how much heart they have.
Holly is on the West Side, and maybe it's because of that that I'm biased, but I get the idea that they were saving the best for last. The West Side dance team came running out and did their routine which was so good that I had to kind of check myself to make sure I wasn't dancing along a little bit. Then Holly and her cheerleaders were up. I have to admit I kind of cringed a little bit when she made the cheerleading squad because, I don't know, she's a cheerleader now. But I'm so proud that she did, and what I saw was amazing. When I was little my mom used to play this "trust game" thing with me where I would fall backwards and she would catch me. You've probably done it at some point in your life. The West Side cheerleaders took that to a whole new, and amazing, level. They lined up as if standing facing each other on a train track with their arms held out in front of them. In the middle one of the girls rose above the rest, with her feet where their arms were. I don't know how they did it, they had to be holding her up. But then, to the beat of the fast hip/hop/pop/cheerleading music she fell backwards, was flung back up and fell forwards and flung back up, I likened it to the bar on an equalizer. It was amazing. They were flipping and and dancing and flying all over the place. It made me not only like cheerleaders, it made me want to be a cheerleader. I'm going to make Holly teach me how to dance. Then I'm going to get her to invite all her cheerleader friends over to I can do the equalizer bar thing.
The pep rally was a screaming success. It made me wish that I had gone to more of them when I was in school instead of dodging parking lot-watchers and sulking around hating cheerleaders. I left this one feeling much more peppy than when I entered. I even made Justin listen to some song that goes "I whip my hair back and forth" on the radio on the way home. It was awesome. In the words of Rod Stewart, I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger. Ooh la la. Damn, I'm old.