Miller: What homecoming is all about – or not |

Miller: What homecoming is all about – or not

Alex Miller

So I asked my kids when I was getting an invitation to homecoming. I got blank looks accompanied by the sound of crickets.

“You know,” I said, “Homecoming is when you’re supposed to invite back Summit High alumni for, I dunno, events and stuff.”

They hadn’t heard. Apparently, no one gives much thought to why this week’s festivities are known as “homecoming.” And when I mentioned it at work to two other SHS grads, they hadn’t heard either.

Hey, it’s not like I expect the class of 2009 to have a parade for older alumni they don’t know from Adam. Teens are a solipsistic bunch not prone to look much beyond their own here-and-now. But I thought they might at least be curious as to the origin of this thing they celebrate with theme days at school, the big football game and the air band contest (which I have the dubious distinction of having helped start when I was on student council long ago, thank you very much).

I started to wonder if my perception of homecoming was misguided, so I turned to that quintessential source of arcane knowledge, wikipedia, to read this:

“Homecoming is an annual tradition of the United States. People, towns, high schools and colleges come together, usually in late September or early October, to welcome back former residents and alumni. It is built around a central event, such as a banquet or a game of American football, soccer, basketball, or ice hockey.”

As anyone who’s ever had an awkward lunch with a friend from a previous time knows, sometimes it’s not easy to live a homecoming. Nostalgia can be warming but also fraught with regret. When I look at the class composites in the halls of Summit High, my eye often stops on former classmates who are no longer with us. While my kids like to poke fun at my “purple” glasses and blow-dried hair (Class of ’82 ” that’s me at the top), my gaze settles on the face of that cheerleader I know just went through a painful divorce, or that former ski team star who got lost in his own mind many years ago. Faces frozen in time at age 18 with all the promise that lay ahead, did any of those lives work out as expected?

Probably not, but plenty of SHS grads have done pretty well in the world since graduating. Few of them are close enough to Farmer’s Korner to be interested in showing up for (OK, non-existent) alumni homecoming events. The way homecoming works for me in real life is people pop into the county at different times throughout the year, and I catch up with them then. During Frisco’s Beetlefest a few weeks ago, it just so happened that two high school friends were in town, and we stole a few hours to catch up, to trade information about classmates we still keep in touch with and to revisit, if just for a few moments, life as it was 25 years ago.

It’s OK that today’s SHS crowd knows or cares little about what they’re celebrating with homecoming. More important is creating memories they can hang onto and revisit over lunch with a friend 20 years from now. Watching my daughter go to school dressed as a super-hero the other day, I know she’ll remember that for years – sort of the way I remember how two male friends and I wore tube tops to school during a homecoming beach theme day ” in defiance of a vice-principal’s proscription against such.

And yeah, Kaylie Miller looked a lot better in her “Spyder Girl” costume.

Alex Miller is the editor of the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at 668-4618, or

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