LSS: Put the pom-poms back

The announcement came through loud and clear.

“Pick up packets for cheerleader tryouts in the office. They must be turned in by Friday.”

Of all people, I should remember the spectacle of middle school spring cheerleader tryouts, but somehow, I had forgotten.

Later, when I overheard a 12-year-old girl tell her mother, in all seriousness, that cheerleading tryouts were “the most important things in the universe,” I remembered.

Long ago in a land not-so-far away, I was a cheerleader. (I apologize if the image proves to be too much of a stretch for tender readers.)

In my middle school, cheerleading auditions happened in front of the entire student body. Then, fellow students voted. It was brutal.

Melissa Marveggio and I tried out together. She was a tumbling fiend. That girl could Nadia Comaneci across the whole gym. If I do say so myself, I did the most beautiful herkie in the whole sixth grade.

But alas and alack, neither of us was elected to the esteemed honor of seventh-grade cheerleader. Sixth-grade political savvy gave me insight into the dynamics of the popular vote. I was not surprised when Mr. Wade read the election results over the intercom.

Nonetheless, I was sad. I dreamed of my very own pleated skirt with multi-colored insets.

I brushed the whole matter off and said, “Maybe next year.”

So, I tried out the next year.

And didn’t make it.

And the year after that.

And didn’t make it.

And, I’m not proud to admit this, but I’m pretty sure I tried out the year after that.

And didn’t make it.

Finally, we moved to another town before my junior year in high school. That spring, I decided to give cheering one last shot. The try-outs were more formalized. We had a clinic, learned routines and certain cheers. I did all the deeds and, a team of outside judges announced the results.

I made it.

For one brief shining moment, when I had just turned 17, all was right with the world.

And then, the next day, cheer practice started.

International military invasions have been launched with less planning (and scheming) than what happens inside a high school cheerleading squad.

As it turned out, my sixth-grade classmates knew something I didn’t.

I wasn’t cut out to be a cheerleader.

Oh, I did it and mostly had fun doing so. (There were a few magical moments. After all, my herkie was still rather spectacular.) I hated that aspects of cheering brought out what seemed to be some of the worst in humanity.

Even so, ten years ago when my parents moved from our childhood home, my brother nonchalantly tossed my old pom-poms in the trash – which led to the two of us having an old-fashioned sibling brawl. Eventually, I was running down the street of our youth, pom-poms in hand, chasing my brother driving a loaded truck, as he yelled out the window, “Put the pom-poms back.”

Clearly, he had no idea the tenacity those pom-poms represented.

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