I love homecoming. Just downright love it. This year proved to be yet another great year of festivities, but it had its own unique spin.
Teaching in Alma has been great for me on a professional level. I've learned so much about the art of pedagogy as well as making friends at work and church. Honestly, I wouldn't change being there as I have fallen in love with the Airedales. My students and co-workers are top-notch, and I am the most privileged novice teacher in the state. Alma has given me the ability to strive for more and to be proud of my students' accomplishments in the classroom. It is an irreplacable place to live and work.
But that can never take away or attempt to replace home. At the end of the day, Ozark is home. I bled purple and gold my entire life, and a part of me will always love being a Hillbilly. I look at it as having 2 loves, albeit school or church. Any girl is lucky to have 2 loves. However, homecoming week belongs to my first love. HPRD!
I have the greatest assistant principal in the world, and I say that with absolute honesty. I know when he says something, he means it. His attention to the learning environment for our students is incomparable. As an employee it makes me try harder as I hope that my administrators are proud of the work I do. But he gets the favorite award this week for understanding my desire to sometimes just wanting to go home.
Friday afternoon we had homecoming festivities in Alma. Simultaneously, Ozark was hosting its homecoming pep rally in which the queen was to be named. Typically this would stir interest in me, but never the sheer desire to be there like this year held. A lifelong family friend and my younger cousin were both up for homecoming queen. At Ozark this isn't announced until the pep rally. My assistant principal understood my wish to want to see this, and he let me leave out a few minutes early to go be with family.
I went to Ozark as quickly and safely as possible, and I walked into the gym sporting my green and gold Alma Middle School shirt as the high school principal was announcing the first sophomore maid. He began announcing the seniors, and our lifelong friend (more like my little sister) came out with the title of senior maid. All suspense had led to the next few moments, when the maid of honor and queen were to be announced. As the principal announced this year's maid of honor, I noticed my cousin's name was not called. She was the queen!
As exciting as this was, it was emotionally over the top as all of us granddaughters have been in Ozark's homecoming. My mom and aunt started this tradition as my mom was the first homecoming queen in our family and my aunt a maid. At my granny's house, she has a wall dedicated to our homecomings, and each girl has her picture on that wall in either a purple or white dress. It stung a little bit to know the legacy of home and to not be there. At the same rate I hope a new legacy is being born in the shade of green.
After the pep rally, I went to my grandpa's house and convinced him to go with me to the Bank to see my dad. Dad showed us around the new facilities, bought me a coke (with shaved ice!), and took me to talk to the ladies I used to work with. Again, I felt another sting of wishing I could be home. Growing up that bank seemed like my second home, and I always assumed I'd work there one day. That one day took place in the summer of my college years--not the career I had expected growing up. Regardless, the operations center is gorgeous with its garden dedication to Vanesa. And if I'm in town during a storm, I'll be sure and head to this F-5 tornado proof building! Doesn't do much for cell phone service though...
I took Grandpa home and bribed him into going with me to the football game that night. To me this is where the twist in homecoming sure gets good. Mom and Dad were eating with old classmates at a tailgate before the game. My sister had her 10 year class reunion. Ozark was playing Gravette--where my sister and brother-in-law now teach and coach. And our cousin was the homecoming queen. How much more could a homecoming pack into it?
Last night I sat with my sister cheering for Gravette. It's still hard for me to cheer against Ozark, but at the end of the day blood is thicker than water. While Ozark may be where we grew up, we grew up as family. Home isn't the town or the school or the house that hold our memories. Home is the people who helped us make those memories. So at the end of the homecoming weekend, when all is said and done, we'll all take a little bit of home back with us. And when we get together again whether it be in Alma, Gravette, or Ozark; it'll feel like home to me.