Mid-life apologies to all cheerleaders and rally teams of my past. I was never one to dream of being on such a team, or involved in such a sport. Maybe it is to blame the 7th grade P.E. teacher at LaGrande Junior High who once said to me, “Your cartwheels are crappy. Maybe stick to volleyball.” Or, perhaps it was because for some during those days of the 70’s, trying to be on cheer meant crafting yourself to fit an expected look. (Although later in high school I learned to appreciate those girls who really didn’t pretend or care about any of that, they just wanted to have fun doing what they liked to do.) Or, finally, maybe it was that hanging out with boys, or those who competed like mostly boys in those days, felt safer to me.
“NUDGING INTO JUNIOR high, I was a shy new kid facing the intimidating task of navigating the road map to thirteen-year-old girl-friend-making. My end-of-summer whisper of a friend remained mostly that: she already boasted other strong friendships, and I peeked in as an awkward outsider. Boys, I knew, were an open book. Most of the ones I knew burped, farted, and told you what they thought. I hadn’t figured out the secret life of girls. I had poured over Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” in desperate attempts to crack the code. I had reread many times the instruction manual offered in the free Welcome to Womanhood pink boxes freely offered by Kotex. Wondering if, in fact, this day would ever really come to me….”My Music Man, Chapter 17: Interrupted
You would have thought, given that our dad was in fact a Yell Leader at Portland’s Lincoln High, I would have been more enlightened. (Since you might expect me to talk a bit about history, as I usually do in this blog, it’s worth adding that Lincoln High was established in 1869 and is recognized as one of the oldest public high schools west of the Mississippi.) Yet, cheer was not Dad’s first choice, but it was the only way he could figure getting close to the games after his mother (“WhoWho”) banned football for him after he knocked out his teeth playing football the previous season. And it was prior to discovering an even better way, for him, to be involved in football: as a Cardinal Times Sports Writer.
I didn’t recognize it as the big deal that I should have, when during my own years at Lincoln High, shortly after the passage of Title IX, our cheer teams rooted for the Girls Varsity Teams, just as they did the Boys. In fact, during that era (1976-1979) it is fair to say our girl cager teams were more successful competitively, capturing a City “PIL” basketball title, entering the state tourney, and so forth (sorry guys). So, to those LHS cheer teams during that era: I send a hearty belated thanks. The fact that I could still pull these locker decorations out of my closet today, illustrates their meaning to me.
But now, my eyes are fully opened to even newer cheer team possibilities. Meeting up with some of Russ’s childhood friends introduced me to a best friend’s spouse, Terri Koepenick, President and Member of Sun City Shadow Hills Pom Squad. This name might sound a bit familiar, as a recent movie starring Diane Keaton was inspired by real life senior citizen Pom Squads, including the Sun City Poms from Sun City Retirement Facility in Arizona. Sitting here, now, at mid-life, I get it. I figure, if you don’t do it now, you just may never get a chance! And, my, oh my, I honor these women who just want to have fun, keep spirits and bodies alive and moving, and give back to their communities and those in need. And, not give a darn what you or I might think about them for doing so! I’m still not sure I quite have it in me to take on anything like this…but maybe they’ll waive the cartwheels? I’ll give it some time to consider, and, in the meantime congrats and cheers to Sun City Shadow Hills Pom Squad!