Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You CAN Go Home Again

Last weekend, I went to Concord for Homecoming. I LOVE Homecoming. I look forward to it every year, regardless of the weather and who is/isn't coming. It is a weekend for me to rewind to those great four years and be utterly grateful for my experience and the lasting relationships I built. For those of you who didn't go to Concord, let me describe Homecoming. It's not a day - it's technically a week. But for Greeks, it starts as soon as Greek Week is over in the spring and you decide who you're running with next year. After the sororities receive invitations to run with fraternities, you vote, give the winning fraternity your answer, then decide who you're running for King and Queen. Then, you wait on the Homecoming Committee to tell you what the overall theme is for next year, meet with the fraternity to vote on your group theme, argue about it for a little while, have a social, then not understand why the guys don't like the theme you chose while they were drunk. This is followed by the girls preparing for Homecoming all summer - designing costumes and billboards, choosing lip sync songs, etc. - and the guys showing up to lip sync practice drunk and completely uninterested in learning their dances. They also show up drunk to paint billboards, make costumes and floats and pretty much anything else where they can have beer. The girls complain because the guys don't care enough and the guys complain because the girls care too much. Nevertheless, the constant togetherness has produced many romances which resulted in long-term relationships and even marriage. I started dating my college boyfriend, Mike, when he was the Pi Kapp Homecoming candidate and DZ was running with them. I was on the lip sync committee and had made the first mix tape of our songs. I won him over with my ability to make a mix tape! He was a DJ for WCCR - Concord College Radio. (I wonder if it's WCUR now.) Anywho, that was the beginning of our three-year relationship and I maintain that Mike is the only normal boyfriend I've ever had.
Back to Homecoming. In the fall, girls spend the first three weeks of school preparing for Formal Rush. After that, we are full of happy new members and begin frantic, constant Homecoming prep. The costumes and billboards that were designed over the summer have to actually get made. The lip sync dance has to be put together and taught to uninterested fraternity boys and sorority girls who don't like being in the front/middle/back row and want to be moved to the front/middle/back/fraternity boy she wants to be her dance partner. The float has to be put together, the banners have to be painted, the photos for the flyers have to be taken, the flyers designed and copied, the free stuff gathered and tagged for the favor table... I am tired just thinking about it. Oh, and there's school. Remember, college is what we were there for, not Homecoming. Right? Anyway, the point is that Homecoming is a BIG DEAL.
When the actual week arrives, The Rules must be followed. No campaign materials are allowed to be put up prior to 6 a.m. (or something like that) on the Monday of Homecoming Week. So, that Sunday night, all the organizations drag their billboards to their respective locations on campus and post people to guard them all night. They're placed face down on the grass, and people sleep (among other things) on them so no other groups can see the designs until they're unveiled the next morning. Bonfires and tents crop up all over campus for the guardians of the billboards. Lots of alcohol and caffeine is consumed. It's usually really cold. And it's the most fun night of the year, because all the Greeks are out wandering from place to place and everyone is socializing. When morning arrives, the billboards are put up and you go from place to place deciding whose are the best (DZ's, of course!), hang your banner in the cafeteria and put your flyers everywhere. You wear letters all week, tell all your GDI friends to vote for your sister and talk lots of crap about the other sororities. All in good fun, really. Lip sync happens on Wednesday night, and Monday and Tuesday are filled with extra practices and costume prep. Sometimes, you go to class. If you have time...I mean, lip sync is REALLY a lot of work. By Wednesday night, you are so convinced that your lip sync is the best that when you don't win, it's like the world ended. Especially if you are on the committee and everyone is mad at you for about an hour. Not that I'd know how that feels. But, when you DO win, it's like you're the best person on Earth and everyone LOVES you. I much prefer that feeling. After lip sync, there's a big party and everyone loves everyone (that's why the not loving you thing only lasts about an hour). Thursday brings the parade, and you don your lip sync costumes again for them to be judged. Then, you walk in the parade with your float, run back to the dorms to change clothes and go to the bonfire. This was my second favorite night of Homecoming. It was where the winners of billboard, banner, float and costumes were announced. Each group chanted, the band played, there was food...especially the cheesecake marble brownies from the cafeteria...and everyone was in a good mood. We usually won first or second place in all those categories and there was lots of chanting and being happy. Then, we would go back to the dorms again, put on our black pants and shiny Deb club shirts and go to The Club. There was only one, everyone went and we all dressed alike. No wonder GDIs think sororities brain wash you. I can only imagine what we looked like when we traipsed to the parking lot in our black pants and cheap, shiny shirts.
Saturday morning brought sorority teas at 10 a.m. Really, which alum thought this was a good idea? Rousing a bunch of college girls at 10 a.m. on Homecoming morning to put on badge attire and be pleasant to alumnae they didn't know? Not the best idea, but it's been done for decades. After tea comes the game. It starts at 1 p.m., but everyone goes early for tailgating. All the Greeks and their alumni are in the parking lot with tents and grills and coolers and laughter. No one actually goes into the game until right before half time, because no one cares to see Concord lose another football game. We're only there to see who wins King and Queen. All the organizations crowd around on the track and cheer for their candidates as they walk across the field. Then the winners are announced...2nd runner up...1st runner up...King and Queen! It's so exciting to hear your group's name called. You jump and cheer and take pictures, and's over. All that momentum that's been building for months is suddenly over, and it's like all the air has been let out and you're slowly deflating. You go to dinner with everyone at Applebee's or Texas, and talk about how great Homecoming was. You go to a party with the fraternity you ran with and everyone really loves each other because by now, pretty much every single sorority girl has found a single fraternity boy (or two) to date. The next week, you go back to class and your professors wonder where you've been all semester since you spent the first three weeks of school prepping for Formal Rush and the second three prepping for Homecoming. I know I learned a lot at Concord, but seriously, where did I fit all that learning in between the fun?
Being the actual candidate is another story in itself. It is a lot of work to be the face of the campaign. I can't imagine how Sarah Palin must feel. I was worn out, and I didn't even have to take the time to put my hair in that poof every morning. My running mate was a Pi Kapp, my Best Guy Friend of All Time, Scottie. Neither of us would have made it through without the other. It should be noted, though, that the candidates are truly just the face of the campaign. Everyone is voting for DZ and Pi Kapp, not Emily and Scott. That makes it even sweeter for the group when you win awards. Regardless, the candidates have a lot of responsibility and "appearances, " if you will, that must be made, in addition to the regular preparations. I survived with lots of Tylenol and Mountain Dew. Scottie turned to a more natural substance. But hey, whatever works.
And so, now that you understand Homecoming, I hope you'll understand why I love to go back. Although it would be wonderful to have all my Concord friends in one place at one time, I understand it's not realistic. So, I go to see whomever shows up, and am happy to talk to them and hear about all that's going on in their life. I see my favorite professor, Dr. Burgher, tell him all about what's going on with me and listen to him tell me about his adventures in retirement. I look for our former President, Dr. Beasley, and his wife, Jean, my other two mentors from Concord, and ask about their family and new life since he retired in June. I find our CCD, Lisa, down on the track with the cheerleaders she coaches, and catch up on whatever DZ drama is going down. I am happy to see anyone and everyone that was a part of my life at Concord, because the impact of those people and that education is so profound that I could never begin explain it.
On the fun side, I love to spend the time with my old friends doing things we did during our college Homecoming days. We tailgate, we go on the track at halftime, we go to dinner, we go to The Club (which is now a non-dancing sports bar called Danny's - weird), we go to the hole-in-the-wall Last Resort (a bar outside of Athens that is TRULY the last resort) and have our midnight meal at The Omelet Shoppe. We reminisce about all the dumb stuff we did and sometimes, do more dumb stuff...but that is another post. Most of all, we are thankful. Thankful for each other, for our experience, for our long-standing relationships. I know that not everyone had this kind of college experience, and I will always be grateful that I did.
So, Homecoming is over, there are new stories to tell, and it's time to start thinking about next year. I have decided to get contacts for each Greek organization and see if we can have a concerted effort for a better reunion since our crappy Alumni Relations Director is not going to do it. Everyone who lived through (and enjoyed) a Concord Homecoming deserves to be part of it again later in life, to spend one day of their year thinking back on the fun times and being grateful for them. So, my mission is to provide that day for Concord alumni. Fellow Concordians, do you choose to accept?

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