With Andrew out of town and all of my buyers under contract on properties across the city, I found myself with no plans and nothing to do on Saturday. I brewed two strong cups of coffee, ate a bowl of cereal while I shopped online, and got ready to drive to Hinsdale for the rest of the day. It was Homecoming at Hinsdale Central, and my youngest brother (Jack, a senior) would be going to the dance for the last time ever.
I got home around lunchtime, and my parents and my other brother decided to walk over to the high school for the football game. I hadn’t been back to Dickinson Field in what seemed like forever — surely not since Sam’s graduation four years ago.
It was breezy and cool in the shade but toasty in the sunshine — the perfect first day of fall, and the perfect weather for a homecoming. My mom made Sam and I take a picture outside our house, and then we were off toward the big brick building at 55th and Grant. We laughed and we talked. I looked at the ring on my hand and suddenly felt old, wistful for the days when I would walk to school (or more likely, get picked up by my friend Erin in her red Mustang, as documented below).
My dad bought us tickets by the entrance. We headed toward the home side, seeking out a spot high up in the bleachers. I looked at the cheerleaders in their little white-and-red outfits (how badly I wanted to be one of them!) and the football players, padded and cleated. Near the end zone, the homecoming court sat in the grass. Had it been eight years ago, I would be in the stands with my friends, pretending to actually watch the game.
At Hinsdale Central, everything seems very much the same. The guys on homecoming court still wear those goofy white suits. The bathroom near the concession stand is still old and gross. The cheerleaders still impressed the crowd with their backflips and mounts.
But now, an entirely new generation rules the school. My friends and I used to go to a football game and know everybody, from our peers to their parents. This time, I didn’t recognize a single person (except maybe our beloved local policeman, Officer Coughlin). I felt anonymous, and truthfully, a tiny bit sad. I wanted to tell the people sitting around us about my high school experience, my past homecomings. I wanted to talk about the time Courtney and I hid from our senior year dates so that we didn’t have to dance with them. I wanted to remember buying poofy, frilly, pink dresses from Nordstrom. I wanted to share about the group dinners, the photos, the pep rallies.
Of course, I also could have told them how I cried before my sophomore year homecoming, wondering why no one had asked me. Or the dreaded, drunken after-parties. Or the way I felt as a freshman at my first-ever high school dance, wide-eyed and intimidated. I struggled with the typical teenager issues and insecurities, but overall, I had a ball at Hinsdale Central, and I look at those years with a lot of joy.
I waved goodbye to Jack as he left to go pick up his date. He looked grown-up and handsome. Saturday was his last-ever homecoming, and for our family, the last child to go through Hinsdale Central. I will forever be grateful for my Red Devil memories, and one day, I hope Andrew and I can send our kids to a school like that.