“There’s No Place Like Homecoming”

30 November MMXVI

We recently celebrated a high school homecoming in our family. Our oldest children attend a very small Catholic high school and I have come to believe that these intimate atmospheres foster the most meaningful homecoming memories and traditions. We had a happy and hectic week full of corsage orders and football game preparations. All week, our home and our children were decked in our school’s beloved blue and gold.

Our homecoming dances are still in the school gym and the decorations are all made entirely by the students and faculty. It is a precious week. This year’s theme was “There’s No Place Like Homecoming” and centered on a nod toward the Wizard of Oz. For the week, each class was assigned a hallway to decorate within the Oz theme. At the end of the week, the hallways were judged by the faculty and a winning class was awarded. Saturday morning the grand transfer of the decorations from the school hallways to the gym occurred to decorate for the dance that night.

Our son’s Senior Class was assigned a “Kansas” theme. Their decorations were all black and white like the Kansas portion of the film. There were giant black and white sunflowers and the most amazing tornado. Our daughter’s Junior class was assigned the “Emerald City” and spent all week painting fields of bright poppies and crafting an Emerald Castle. The other classes were assigned Munchkin Land and the Haunted Forrest. By the end of the week, when the transfer was complete, the foyer of the gym was transformed into the black and white Kansas and, after walking through a rainbow arch of balloons, the students found themselves in a technicolor Oz! It was amazing how much delight and ownership these high school students found in their homecoming!

For weeks ahead of time, I kept requesting a “plan” from my oldest two children who were going to be double dating. Who were their dates? Where were they eating? I kept getting the “we’re figuring it out, Mama” answer. By the week before Homecoming, I knew the “who” but was still waiting on the “where”. And I pushed for an answer. It was then that my 17 year old son said hesitantly, “Mama, we were thinking we could have our dates over here for dinner.” In that instant, I simultaneously smiled and choked. I was deeply touched that our teenagers wanted to be in our home and wanted their dates here with them. But my head was spinning as I imagined the miracle that needed to be worked in my house in the next few days to get it to a place where the dates did not suspect that their Kansas tornado had already been through here! With seven children in our house, there are many days when one could wonder if he arrived right after a tornado had departed!

The next few days were a flurry of miracle working. Table linens were washed and ironed. Silver was polished and place settings were prepared as the menu was planned by our children. I will probably continue to find things that I frantically shoved out of sight for the next few years.

After all of the cleaning and polishing and cooking were accomplished, the sweet dance day arrived with its precious rituals of hair appointments and flower pick ups and endless pictures capturing it all. By 8:00 that evening, our pilgrims to Oz were off over the rainbow and I began to blow out candles and soak dishes. As I stood in our kitchen washing and drying them, I could not help but reflect on this past year and how it has been a homecoming of its own.

It began in a whirlwind tornado of paperwork and immigration tangles that ultimately carried us over the rainbow and across the sea. There, we found ourselves in a foreign “Oz” very unlike our “Kansas” where we were received by a group of munchkins, one of them being our youngest daughter. During our time in “Oz”, we were met by dear new friends we would keep forever and journeyed together down a precise yellow brick road of governmental appointments and medical exams. Ultimately, we arrived in the “Emerald City” and got our meeting with the great and powerful “Oz”, The U.S. Consulate General, who told us we had all we needed to get home and granted us permission to head back over the rainbow.

After the dishes were dried and stacked, I curled up with my munchkin asleep on my shoulder and awaited her oldest siblings to tap their heels together and head home. As I felt my daughter’s sleeping breaths on my neck and listened to her smack her tiny thumb, I could not help but reflect on our journey to her. And as I breathed her in deeply I smiled and thought, “Oh Song-Felicity! There is NO place like homecoming!”