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The fragile beauty of homecoming
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It’s high school football season once again.
Ah, yes, the return of fall foliage, brisk north winds, shorter days and fog.
No, not what Mother Nature sends us — Axe. The stuff teenagers use to fumigate bathrooms, hallways and entire schools while the rest of us gasp for air.
And without question, the most important event is not the cross-town rivalry on the gridiron. It’s homecoming. Boys finding elaborate, and in some cases outrageous, schemes to ask out their dates. Girls hoping the hot-air balloon hovering over their subdivision is little Johnny’s way of saying, “Go with me!”
And if you are wondering why your neighborhood suddenly has a proliferation of black limos circling around looking for a residence, relax. The Eagles are not doing a backyard gig. It’s dance season.
This tradition is a rare generational thread that still bears some vague resemblance to the good ol’ days, when boys had regular names like Hank, Joe or Tom, wore suits from J.C. Penney and drove their parents’ Dodge Dart. Their dates’ dresses showed modesty reflective of the time. Moms and dads sent them on their way without fretting about a phone call after midnight.
The common fiber is the corsage, Mother Nature’s contribution to the night that is absolutely timeless. So how are the flowers doing these days? Not well.
“The boys generally don’t know what to order,” says Emily Fyten of Flowers by Emily in Leawood. “Most of the time, though, the mom orders the corsage for them and they normally have more of an idea of what they want. Sometimes the moms will bring in the boys to pick something out, but they really don’t seem like they want to be here.”
One website suggested that “boys need to consider their date’s attire before ordering.” Yeah, and your son should also check the fuel level, the polish on his shoes and lay off whatever gel is plastered in his hair. That same site suggested to boys, “to make certain you have the perfect match for your attire, bring in the gown itself, a fabric swatch or a photo. This will allow your florist to match the flowers, ribbons and colors to your clothing.” Who does this? Just give me the boy’s name. I have a daughter he needs to meet.
Boys don’t know a peony from a pencil. An orchid is an instrument in a band. Crocus is something you attach to sunglasses to keep them on your neck. Harmonizing color, accessorizing and making it all come together? Is there an app for that? Dream on.
Nature’s finest leave the protective climate of Emily’s world and get tossed in the back seat, surrounded by Chipotle wrappers, McDonald’s cups and blowing air craving Freon. And did I mention Axe?
“We did have one guy that put his corsage in the freezer instead of the refrigerator” Emily said. “The mom said it looked decent enough to use, but a little weird.” You think he noticed?
So what about the mom who plans ahead, is assured her son’s date’s dress is white and then sees the girl show up in something coal black. “She switched with a friend at the last minute,” our son Robert explained to his mom who was, well, kind of reddish.
But all this is window dressing compared to the real drama. That’s when the slacker dude intersects with his date — with flower and stick pin in hand. Kids who haven’t tied their shoes in 15 years are asked to display the finger dexterity of a concert pianist. Paging St. Jude.
Happily these days those train wrecks are rare, since most dresses are the size of a postage stamp. That means it’s a wrist corsage, which still presents some challenges. Which wrist? Which way? Which date? The ladies typically reciprocate with a boutonniere, which is flawlessly added to the lapel.
The next morning you attempt a download with your son. “How was it? Did you have fun? Did your date have fun?” Grunts. Groans. Snores.
So moms deconstruct the clothes pile. In the mix you find something shriveled, flattened by a semi and baked in an oven — something that just hours earlier was elegantly formed by angels and crafted by careful, nurturing hands.
You study it. If only it could speak, but its appearance suggests the last thing it witnessed no mom would want to hear.
Red rose with baby’s breath, we hardly knew ye.
Matt Keenan’s book, “Call Me Dad, Not Dude,” is available at Borders and online at Write to Matt at his website,