During the fall of 1985, a strange wind blew through my hometown. That wind carried me to the steps of the homecoming court, and then promptly dropped me on my behind just shy of the court. It was weird.
To this day I am convinced that it was some joke that never completely saw the light of day. Yes, I was on poms, but hardly a popular girl. Hmm. How shall I put it? I was a geek. A geek who had rhythm and stage presence. Perhaps someone thought it would be funny if I actually made it on that float with the Homecoming Queen as a member of her court and threw my name in the hat. Whatever the reason, it didn’t make any sense to me, and to be honest it was a painful reminder of what I was not and what I would never be.
Instead of becoming a great punchline or strange photo in the yearbook, the nomination created a very awkward, difficult and sometimes tense situation at home. Why? My parents had never experienced “Homecoming”. My parents had experienced high school but that was decades prior in a country that at that time was often referred to as a third world or developing nation. As if high school isn’t tough enough, imagine going through high school trying to translate it in Korean.
“Um-mah, Ah-Bbah, (Mom and dad), would you please leave me alone and comfort me. I know this nomination is a nong-dam (joke) but there is a part of me that wants to ee-gyu (win) and there’s a part of me that knows it will never happen. Instead, come an-juh (sit) in the bleachers and wear a big ggote (corsage) with a button created out of a sah-jin (photo) of me in my poms uniform? And then later that night you will need to snap sah-jin (pictures) of me and my nahm-ja-ching-goo (date) and my ching-go (friends) and their nahm-ja-ching-goos (dates) as we head out, this time I’m wearing the ggote (corsage), to juh-nyuk (dinner) and then a dance with a boy who calls me “Kate”. Oh, and did I mention that during the week leading up to your time in the bleachers and mine in a dress I borrowed from you, I will be gone decorating the hallways for spirit week. Oh, never mind. It’s OK. You don’t have to come.”
To the person who thought it was funny to put my name in the hat for sophomore attendant: I have almost forgiven you.
It’s homecoming weekend here. The storefronts down “Main Street” are decorated in anticipation of the festivities, complete with a parade, football game and reunions. We have to get Bethany to the beginning of the parade route early so she can “march”. She lucked out this year. Being a member of last year’s poms squad she gets to “dance” in her poms uniform, which I must say is cuter than the band uniform she wore last year. She brought the uniform home today, and all I could think of is next year when she’s in high school this weekend has the potential to look and feel so different. She’ll know it. And I will so know it.
My parents did the best they could with a 15-year-old cultural interpreter. My hope is that through our experience together defining Korean American I am a better interpreter for my children.