So, I was on vacation last week, and I attended homecoming at my alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi.
All the usual homecoming traditions were performed; there was a pep rally, followed by a live concert. There was a parade, followed by the football team walking into the stadium. There were students spending an entire day sitting in one of the school's fountains, so their respective homecoming team could earn points in the Homecoming Week competition.
I was "home."
Events like homecoming celebrations allow us the opportunity to reach in to our past and reconnect with a younger version of ourselves. They give us an opportunity to see people we once went with on late night runs to the liquor store, err, the all-night grocery store. It gives us a chance to see the guys we once played Frisbee with in our college newsroom.
Ah, the fun you could have in college.
There were some changes to the campus, however. Signs that time marches on, and things don't stay the way we remember them. The scars of Hurricane Katrina are visible on the campus. The copper on the dome of the administration building had to be replaced. It's now a brown color, instead of the familiar green dome I saw everyday as a student. Many of the trees surrounding Lake Byron were knocked down, and visitors can now clearly see over the lake and across highway 49.
Other signs of change are the new expansion of the student union, realigned roads, the nearly completed center for economic development, and the expansion of the football stadium.
Despite the changes, homecoming was a lot of fun. It reminded me of the days when I'd wander out of my dorm room, toward the student plaza, and enjoy Friday night pep rallies. The Student Government Association got the Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans to play after the pep rally on Oct. 12. The band had trombone players, a couple of trumpet players, a saxophone player, and a tuba player.
The highlight of the band was a guy named "Shorty," who wore a suit and black and gold sash. He danced with a large, black feather fan, and a black umbrella with gold streamers hanging from the edge. He would frequently jump off the stage and dance his way through the crowd as everyone was moving to the groove.
It was quite a change from an earlier portion of the pep rally, in which Southern Miss' golden eagle mascot, Seymour d'Campus, danced with streamers until his head went flying off toward the back of the stage. The crowd's reaction was a mixture of gasps and laughs, as the person portraying Seymour scrambled to get his head back.
When you attend homecoming, you get to find out what your fellow classmates have done with their lives. One guy I went to school with, who was a member of the SGA, is now running for a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives. A couple of people I was friends with now work for Southern Miss in the public relations and photo services departments.
Another friend of mine decided to go to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for grad school after graduating from Southern Miss in 2004. Somehow, he turned out to be a Louisiana State University fan, when all was said and done. I'm still scratching my head on that. My former editor, at the university's student-run newspaper, went from being a socialist to being a Mormon.
I guess some things do change, while others stay the same.
All-in-all, it was good to be back at Southern Miss. So good, in fact, I was tempted to just not come back to Georgia. When we go back to a place that we know so well, we find ourselves happy to be there. It's a safe, comfortable place to be. Southern Miss, generally, is a friendly place, far from the occasionally tense atmosphere of Clayton County.
The fact that I was on campus, and not having to attend classes, didn't hurt either.
So would I return to Southern Miss again someday?
Well, as my grand-uncle, who was an author, once said in one of his books, "I'd gladly go back."
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247 or via e-mail at email@example.com.