The black and gold streamers dance in the wind around town as if they hear the cadence of the drum line. I can almost hear the drum cadence myself. The streamers proclaim to the city that it’s Abilene High School’s homecoming week. But for me, the streamers stir up memories.
Before I know it, I’m homecoming queen again. Instead of running an errand across town, I’m riding a float through Abilene down memory lane, remembering my first year as homecoming queen in West Texas.
It was only five years ago. Our son, Jacob, was a junior on the varsity football team, which promoted me to the status of an Eagle Mom. I had already been a football mom for a few years, but this was my first year as a varsity Eagle Mom. Now it was serious.
I thought that I was prepared for my new role since I’ve been around football all my life. For a girl, I knew this game pretty well. But in West Texas, knowing the game isn’t enough to be a good Eagle Mom. It’s knowing what to do between game days that counts. Beginning with Thursday nights in the locker room.
Since football season began, I stumbled from one missed cue to the next. Right when I thought I settled into the Eagle Mom’s weekly rhythm, homecoming week snuck up to remind me that I still had lots to learn about football in West Texas.
The whole schedule changed for this special occasion, beginning with the Thursday night parade. Instead of meeting at the locker room as usual, we met at the civic center downtown at 5:00 p.m. I arrived a little early, because I figured that I’d be lost again like I had been most of the season.
I wove my way through the floats scattered across the parking lot–the student council, the tennis team, homecoming class of ‘91, the convertibles for the homecoming court, and the pep squad, just to mention a few.
My feet walked in beat with the cadence that the drum line practiced under the trees. It vibrated through my veins and stirred my nostalgia for my marching band days. I get the impression that the marching band may even feel like they are the highlight of this special event and they just allow the football team to tag along – it’s their little secret.
The final float was a long trailer with bales of hay arranged so that all sixty players had a seat of honor. The boys wore Eagle football shirts and looked like heroes, maybe even gods, as they paraded through the streets of Abilene.
I tossed Jacob two large bags of candy so that he could throw treats along the way to the small children – and not so small adults – lined up on the streets.
I kept one bag for myself, because we also threw candy from our float–the Eagle Mom float. We had the place of honor right ahead of the football team. The cheerleaders weren’t the prelude to the football float. The homecoming court either. It was the Eagle Moms.
Our trailer was just as big as the football team’s with stacked hay so we could all sit and wave to our admiring fans. After all, there wouldn’t be a football team if it weren’t for us. Of course the Dads had something to do with these boys, but for some reason they just aren’t as important as Eagle Moms. There wasn’t room for them on the float anyway, and besides, who would be left to take our picture?
Cheerleader moms, band moms, tennis moms, soccer moms—they all line up along the street to take pictures of their kids as they pass by. But football Eagle Moms – we are different, and we know it. And for some reason, the rest of the city seems okay with it.
I braced my feet as the trailer lurched to begin the parade route through downtown. The band already marched out of sight ahead of us but their beat lingered. Luckily, I could always see the most important float behind us.
The football players tossed candy to their older fans lined up in lawn chairs and the younger fans playing in driveways. Everyone cheered for the Eagle team and scrambled for candy tossed their way. This was better than Halloween.
The little boys hustled for Smarties, Skittles and Starbursts. It was obvious that they would keep hustling—and do anything else—in order to wear a black shirt and ride the final float one day themselves.
Our float was full of proud Eagle Moms from all kinds of backgrounds united together because we wore the same black Eagle Mom T-shirt and we each had a son on the trailer behind us. It was okay that we didn’t have the cheerleaders near us because there was always a spirited Eagle Mom that would start a cheer and the rest joined in. “Give me an ‘E’. Give me an ‘A’. Give me a ‘G’. ‘L’. ‘E’.” What’s that spell? EAGLES! EAGLES!”
I never was a cheerleader in high school—I wasn’t even cool enough to have friends that were cheerleaders–so I felt a little out of my element as I rode in the parade shouting cheers for the boys in the float following us. I am from South Louisiana though, so it felt natural to throw candy to the kids in the street. This was the closest I’d get to a Mardis Gras parade in West Texas.
The aroma of burgers cooking on a grill drifted across the parking lot as our float arrived at the high school. My stomach growled at the scent and approved of the strategic booster club fundraiser (and disapproved that I didn’t have cash in the pocket). Everyone climbed off the floats and made their way to the crowd in front of the stage for the anticipated pep rally.
The band played, cheerleaders danced on stage, and the football players gathered in the front of the mob. The sounds collided making it difficult to decipher, but the students followed along because they knew the pep rally traditions.
I just knew that as soon as this was over that Eagle Moms were instructed to rush to the locker room. We would start late because of the parade, but we still had to decorate and fill the treat bags for the boys. And it was homecoming, so expectations were high.
The drums echoed over the asphalt behind me as I walked across the street towards the locker room. I couldn’t help but reflect on this whole parade experience (as I also reflected on my hunger and wished that I had brought cash to splurge on a two dollar parking lot special). The parade gave me a glimpse of this West Texas culture. And if I wanted to be a good Eagle Mom, then I needed to pay attention to the obvious…
- Football players are the kings in this town. They rule. Everyone else is like a jealous stepchild wishing for even a little of the attention that the city gives to football.
- Eagle Moms are the queens. After all, we had our own float, right in front of the football players. Wearing an Eagle Mom shirt on game day is serious business. I underestimated the status and responsibilities that went with this role.
- Everyone else is “lagniappe”–that’s a Louisiana word meaning something extra, like an extra dab of whipping cream on top of the strawberry shortcake. But don’t worry, lagniappe friends, our family has lived “lagniappe” ourselves with our soccer boys and it’s not so bad. Who doesn’t like a little extra whipping cream?
I went through the motions in the locker room, hopefully no one noticed my daze of disbelief after the parade. One Eagle Mom hung up the last streamer from the ceiling while another gave instructions for “Parent Night”. Another missed cue. After a few whispers to the moms beside me, I figured out that it meant that the parents would line up on the field with their sons to be introduced to the crowd before the game began.
It was finally Friday. Homecoming game day. My heart swelled as I stood on the 50-yard line beside #42. The Eagle Moms wore one of their son’s game jerseys for the picture (squeezing into those is like squeezing into a wet suit—I almost had to sleep in mine). And the Dads made the cut this time -I guess that all those hours of throwing the ball in the backyard were noticed after all.
They announced our names, and we followed the cues to move across the field. We posed for the photographer, and for that moment I felt like this Eagle Mom was right where she was suppose to be. Standing beside #42. Jacob’s smile assured me that I was in the right place too.
So if you’re a West Texas football mom, or even a “lagniappe mom”, maybe you’ll stumble less than I did if you remember the order of things. Football players rule, Eagle moms are queens, and everything else is lagniappe.
Above all, remember that your most important mom task is to stand beside your #42. You don’t need a parade and posters, or streamers and Skittles for that. Those things are the lagniappe. Standing beside them is what matters.
The light turned green and reminded me that I wasn’t riding the float this year; I was running errands. Someone else is wearing an Eagle Mom shirt with number 42 on the back and buying candy for the parade this week.
But I’m still mom. So I still stand beside Jacob. I stand beside all of our kids on their journeys.
Because that’s what moms do.
Do you have any tips for football moms, soccer moms, any kind of moms standing beside their kids on the journey?