Like it or not, football is most certainly a backdrop of American culture. I have spent most of my life oblivious to this.
I can’t quite remember what weekends were like before I was aware of the craze, but in the past years, football has become as much a part of my family’s autumn tapestry as, say, cinnamon. Or pumpkins. It is the Southern word for October. It is what settles the sting of summer to bring families together around a large pot of love, and before you know it, the white fur hat comes out while you freeze to death with one single hope of survival —a $5 cup of hot chocolate in the freezing mush. That steamy cup, my friends, pretty well defines the essence of life.
Don’t get me wrong, if one tried to capture abundant life in jar and sell it, there would consist an entire library of autumn aura with the two bookends being Friday night lights and church on Sunday. The boots come out for both, underneath the loving watch of the Creator of time. There is something breathtaking about God’s glory on display in America’s youth as they perform a ballet that is being written before your very eyes.
Prior to life with a teenager, Saturday’s College Gameday was our family weekend opener and there was absolutely no going wrong with a little homemade chili coupled with some laundry time. But now, my football experience usually begins around Wednesday as we make ready the final preparations for the pageantry of Friday night lights. With babies grown taller, both on the field and in the marching band, we Mamas must present our colors, our chips and dips, and our after parties with panache. Besides being ironed, everybody’s clothes must be the right color and properly packed without flaw.
I can tell you the exact moment I exited oblivion into the world of awareness of this psychotic Friday night subculture. It was during a parent meeting on a particular August day in a main street America town—one way in and one way out, where business starts at 8 and closes at 5 and everybody’s Daddy works at a place like “the mill.” Until this moment, Friday night lights had ONLY meant that I should reroute my traffic pattern to get home from work.
But then it happened. A lady named Mrs. Donna brought out a sample of the band uniform my son would be wearing. It was every bit of Professor Harold Hill in style and had a fancy hat with a white plume that was at least one foot tall. I instantly became a “Rebel” and looked forward to the day I would see my son wearing his uniform, standing tall, with the best sounding band in the land.
Instead of purchasing fall sweaters, I searched high and low for Rebel gear. I booked hotel rooms for the away games and traveled over state lines. Everywhere the team traveled, there went I, along with a gaggle of groupies I will lovingly call the Mamas of Friday night lights.
We purchased hundreds of dollars of rain gear, only to have the sun unexpectedly show up. We killed time test driving fancy cars and shopping in all the right places whenever we traveled to away games. We laughed until it hurt. Whenever our babies stepped onto the field, we stopped dead in our tracks into a hushed awe. We fostered children that were not our own when their own Mamas were far away. We listened to the heartbreak of first love ripped at the seams and held trash cans up whenever someone was sick. This was us.
For the Mamas of Friday night lights, there is no win or lose after the game. There is only a long trek into the masses for the hug that says it all: I am proud of you and I love you with all my heart. The moments are brief. One last kiss before the maturing young adult eyes, involuntary wandering, seem to say, “Where are they?”…and then it is off to the circle of friends, A.K.A. “Squad”. This is what we Mamas do. We lay it down.
Soon enough, those Friday night lights will be only a traffic diversion once again, but for now, we give our all for our grown up babies to make memories of a lifetime as they grow into fine young men and women. Whether the setting of your Friday night lights is in River City, Iowa, centered around a mill, a plant, or a conglomeration of Fortune 500 companies, the Mama’s heart really does not discern. In the end, there is only one response: That’s my Barney!
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette.