I’ve always thought of myself as the black sheep of my family — at least in the flock that is the grandkids on my mom’s side of the family. My cousin Kari, however, will be quick to tell you that she is the black sheep. But I beg to differ.
While the rest of my cousins and my brother preferred hunting, I preferred shopping. They preferred country music, and I preferred pop and indie. They wore camouflage, and I wore bright patterns. They were all on the high school homecoming court, and I was not.
You’ve probably inferred by that second paragraph that I grew up in a rural town. I did, indeed. Pangburn, Arkansas, is a small, quiet town nestled 20 minutes north of Searcy. We sit on the banks of the Little Red River, and if we’re lucky, on some mornings, the fog rolls down from the surrounding hills and creates a picturesque scene atop the river. There are only 601 of us that get the privilege of calling Pangburn home.
My high school was small and rural, too. I graduated with 47 other Pangburn Tigers, and we were all friends — or friendly, at least. The Pangburn Tigers didn’t have a football team; so, when I came to Harding and celebrated Homecoming weekend with a football game, I was experiencing a new way of doing things. We always had a basketball homecoming.
Like any homecoming celebration, we had your balloon arches. We had your poofy dresses and your faces full of makeup. We had the mom taking photos on a DSLR camera she didn’t know how to use, and we had grandparents taking photos on an iPad. It was homecoming, without a doubt.
What we didn’t have, however, was Kaleb walking in the homecoming court, unlike the rest of my cousins. Like I said — black sheep.
In order to escort a lovely lady in the homecoming court at Pangburn High School, you had to be a member of the basketball team. And just as sure a bet as it is that your mom will leave the lens cap on the camera when your sister gets crowned homecoming queen, I was surely not on the basketball team — not after my failed pee-wee attempt at the sport that resulted in my broken arm.
At the time, it wasn’t a big deal. And, really, it’s not now either. In lieu of my marching across the gym floor, hairs and heels at my side, I had opportunities to participate otherwise — like being on student council. We were in charge of decorating the gym floor for the ceremony, which occurred between the two senior-high basketball games, and you better believe I donned my best white and red dress shirt, my finest denim and my new brown leather shoes for my decorating duties.
I might not have had the chance to escort a classmate in the court, but you know I was strutting my stuff as I carried that balloon arch out onto the court. Black sheep I might be, but I wasn’t about to not be a part of the show.
Remember when I said present-me is not worried about my homecoming exclusion? Well, I’m not, thank you very much. But all I’m saying is that if Harding were to have a male homecoming court right alongside the women who will be walking on the field Saturday, I might throw my hat in the ring. And if you see an online petition going around advocating for the addition of a male homecoming court to the weekend’s festivities, you might know its source.
I’m not asking for the crown. I’m really not. (Although, couldn’t you just imagine a shining crown atop my head, paired with my best black and gold dress shirt, my finest denim and my new brown leather shoes?) All I’m asking for is a chance to make the homecoming court, to take the field as my cousins took to the court years back. I’m asking for a chance to let Kari take the title of the black sheep, to regain my status among my family. I’m asking for a shot at redemption, that’s all — for a chance to be the Homecoming hero.