Midwestern Homecomings

Homecoming wasn’t really a thing in my high school. I guess we had a thing that we called Homecoming, but it was on Thanksgiving Day and since my family generally traveled for Thanksgiving, I usually missed it. One year, because I was in the marching band, I was there for the football game in the morning but my family was waiting in the car and we left from there. I don’t remember it being a big deal though.

So joining in on Homecoming festivities in the Midwest was a new thing for all of us, even the American-born. It was so nice we did it twice! We cheered for the Tigers of Grinnell High School in Iowa at their Homecoming parade, then the next night we were cheering again, this time for the Bulldogs of Trenton High School in Missouri.

Grinnell, Iowa

Facebook is good for a lot of things, such as finding out that the Walmart where you just spent the night is in the hometown of a friend of yours. And also that said friend is making the trek from Pennsylvania to Iowa to celebrate his 55th high school reunion.

We were already planning to spend a few more days in Iowa so that we could visit the Living History Farms. When we found out that friends from Pennsylvania would be less than an hour away, we made a small change in plans and booked ourselves at the same RV park that they had reserved. We were even able to get the neighboring site. So we had local guides around Grinnell, a town of abundant playgrounds and small town charms. We had an impromptu potluck dinner buffet with whatever we found in our refrigerators and we sat outside in the dark at picnic tables to eat it, wrapped in blankets against the evening chill. In other words, making fun memories! But what the kids remembered best of all was the Homecoming parade. John’s class made a float and we sat in the sunshine and watched the parade.

Sun setting on our potluck dinner


Who says the playgrounds are only for kids? Grinnell has fantastic playgrounds, seemingly on every block! I hope this means the kids here are outside a lot!

Our kids haven’t had many chances to go to parades so this was especially exciting. The annual holiday parade in my hometown, which we went to last year and which was the first parade the kids have any memory of attending, is a much different affair. Crowded and uncomfortable, held at a time of year when bad weather is almost guaranteed, and when candy is tossed out you have to be pretty aggressive or go home empty handed. At Grinnell’s parade we had plenty of space to sit comfortably, and the weather was still warm and comfortable. The kids got much more candy than we had expected! We had used a wagon to take chairs and stuff from the car, and in the absence of bags for candy, we just started filling the wagon. The Class of 1962 was especially generous with the candy when John pointed to his cheering section as they passed us.

parade watching
So much space!


Here comes John’s float!

It was a good dose of American culture for our little Swedes. They declared the Tigers to be their favorite team. “I really hope they win their game, Mamma! What sport are they playing again?”

Trenton, Missouri

The day after the Grinnell parade, we left Iowa headed for Missouri. We accepted an invitation to visit from an old camp friend that we hadn’t talked to in nearly 20 years. I’ll write more about that fantastic weekend in my next post, but the day we arrived was the big Homecoming football game for the Trenton Bulldogs.

Their teenaged sons were naturally going to the game. Their daughter, who’s about the same age as Emelie, also wanted to go, and therefore so did Emelie. Their youngest son, about the same age as Peter, chose to stay home and play with Peter. Based on the interests of the younger boys and Micah’s bedtime, the dads stayed home with the boys and the moms took the girls to the football game.

Emelie borrowed Bulldog gear from Emma and, less than 24 hours after pledging her loyalty to the Tigers, decided that the Bulldogs were absolutely the best team. She didn’t really understand much about the game, and resisted my efforts to teach her anything. She cheered when everyone else did and walked around the stadium with Emma, acting at least 5 years older than she actually is. I am not ready for the teenage years. Not surprisingly, she was mostly fascinated by the cheerleaders and the highlight of the evening was when Andrea (Emma’s mom) introduced her to one of the cheer captains, who gave her a hug.

Trenton Bulldogs
Ready to cheer on the Bulldogs

The Bulldogs were leading by an impressive margin after half-time, when we decided that these girls are not yet teenagers after all and we took them home to bed.


Between the parade and the football game, our kids agreed that Homecoming is one of their new favorite things about America. Many thanks to our hosts in both Iowa and Missouri for sharing with us a slice of ordinary life that isn’t so ordinary for us. Go Bulldogs/Tigers!



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