Last night we followed tradition. We ate a Frisch’s before a home game at Cox Field. Every time I go back to Cox Field I am transported back to my high school days, or, in some cases my younger adult days. We spent so much time there, hardly ever missing a high school football game when I was in high school and after. When our oldest son Mike, played football (and was a star to our delight) there we served as co-presidents of the Booster’s Club for several years.
We organized decorating the stadium before games, sold raffle tickets, worked the different booths selling everything from pom-poms to caps in the school colors of royal blue and white. After Mike graduated and went on to play football at Wittenberg University I took some time off from the XHS games. We went to all Mike’s games at WU, home and away, so I claimed Friday night for rest.
After he graduated, however, I started going again. Nothing like sitting out in the crisp fall air, listening to the band play the fight song and hearing the whine of trucks on 35 starting up after they have had to stop at the red light on the corner. A lot of the semi drivers slow down and watch a little of the game as they go by. I am sure it appears to be such a slice of Americana, small town football games on Friday nights are iconic, that they want to watch.
But things are not the same in Xenia. After the tornado the town changed. I do not know if was simply the dreadful disease that has struck most American small towns and was just exacerbated by the tornado or if it was the devastation of the tornado itself. I know that the town has never been the same, either visually, economically or spiritually. The schools used to be the close to the core of the town. The teachers were from Xenia, almost everyone had known each other for years, most of us who taught together had gone to high school together.
Friday nights Cox Field would be packed. It was the place to be, parking was coveted, the merchants near the stadium had to be vigilant to see that game goers did not take up all their parking spaces and cost them business, restaurants in the area did a booming business before the game.
Now it seems the main people who attend the games are a few teachers, the parents of the players, the parents of the band members and legions of preteens flexing their wings of independence and beginning to flirt with each other. There are not a lot of high school students in the stands. When did your school’s football team become irrelevant to the high school students? Aren’t the people of the town involved with the schools anymore? If not, why not?
Anyway it was fun to see the Bucaneers take the field, to see and hear the bands and relive some old good times. One of my former students was the official coach of the game being honored for being an outstanding teacher. I , of course, take partial credit for that!
We left around halftime to go to a local watering hole, “Smokin’ Aces.” No, I have no idea why it is named that. I thought perhaps they played cards there, but nope it is what we would have called a bar and grill at one point. Lots of my classmates showed up. The black people all sat together, of course, huddled at the table like they were virgins at a stag party. I made my rounds hugging classmates of all hues and catching up on how many grandkids we have and whether or not we are retired. At first I was dismayed by the way some of my classmates have aged. I was stunned when a couple of them reminded me of their names. After talking to them for a few minutes though something funny happened. If you looked at the center of their faces the old face came back, the old smile was still there. My classmates may be in their 60’s but the spirits that were shining through last night were still young, eager, friendly, curious and welcoming.
The gathering was distinctly Xenian, including the fact my Cosmo was served in a plastic cup! Such fun to catch up with people you have known for more than half your life and who still have the ability to make you feel good.
Some of them have been ill. One of my classmates who has survived breast cancer twice was up and dancing most of the evening, and the comment I received from many of them was, “well, I’m still here.” I expected to come away from the event feeling old, after all we are celebrating our 45th!!! Class reunion, but I did not, I came out of that bar feeling like a teenager again, and it was only partially due to my Cosmo!