Saturday, January 21, 2012
Give me a D, give me an O, give me an NUT...
This morning I was awakened by an unnervingly peppy gentleman who looked disturbingly like The Dad. This man came into my bedroom and practically sang me awake, wanting to know if I wanted coffee. Now, my mother did this most of my life, and while my teenage self was annoyed I really appreciated her sunny disposition. My father (he had admitted his identity under rapid-fire questioning), on the other hand, has never been called vivacious by anyone other than some random cousin mispronouncing the word 'vicious'. I kid, but The Dad typically moves very slowly and is often less than peppy due to a lot of pain from his back and shoulder.
When I asked to what I owed this new Mary Poppins-esque temperament, he said he wasn’t “hurtin’ too bad” due to his new pain medication, but I suspected it was also due to his happiness over my allowing him two Krispy Kreme donuts for dessert last night. Who knew a sugar high could last until the next day. If he weren’t diabetic, I’d give him donuts every day.
While I enjoyed my coffee, and he sat grinning and chatting I had a bit of déjà vu due to his maniacal smile and chirpy disposition. It reminded me of the time I got stranded in San Antonio due to snow in the DC area. It’s a long story, but the reason I was in San Antonio to begin with was at the invitation of my sister who was attending, along with my cousin, Aunt and cousin’s daughter, the Mid-South Cheer Finals. Now, I was aware of competition cheer squads being as involved in my niece Payton’s activities as I can be from a distance of a half-country. But prior to Payton joining a competition cheer squad, I was confused about private cheerleading teams. Who did they cheer for I wondered? Did they have private football teams? Maybe they rented themselves out to schools with no coordinated girls or something. I don’t know. But you can get money for cheerleading in college. I should know. I, your humble chronicler, was a cheerleader for one semester in college. Two of my aunts, two of my cousins and one of their daughters and now my niece Payton have lead the cheers at various sporting contests. This is a phenomenal level of school spirit to come off one turnrow, do you hear me?
Let me tell you this was an experience I’ll never forget. As a side note, if you’ve ever lost a polka dot, well, buddy, I found it. EVERYTHING there was polka-dotted, zebra-striped or bedazzled; sometimes all three. Red glitter eye shadow, pink glitter lip gloss, and rhinestone studded hair bows which could’ve topped the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza. And that’s just the “Cheer Moms” and “Cheer Meemaws”.
We get to the Alamodome and got in line to buy a ticket; $30 per person. Ouch! However, as I was dressed for the occasion in red chinos, white button down and navy blazer, I was mistaken for a coach and let in for free, given a commemorative backpack and a free bottle of “Spirit Water”. Well, not really, but I was thanked for my spirit on more than one occasion. Well, not thanked per se, but people said “whooo!” a lot and pointed at me. It's nice to see people supportive of my fashion choices.
As far as this competition, let me tell you nothing could have prepared me for this. 3600 hyperactive tots, tweens and teens being herded onto a stage to perform these gravity defying stunts with an disturbing amount of sass and spunk and even more disturbing amount of eye makeup. Those contortionists in Cirque du Soleil couldn’t have pulled off what some of these little Hunters and Fallons and Dakotas did, without losing their hostile smiles. Well, the coaches called it “projection”. I called it maniacal. Of course, I said this to myself. Hell hath no fury like a “cheer mom” with her own bejeweled spirit stick accompanied by her “I Pay, She Cheers” t-shirt clad spouse. I don’t want to be beaten with those clapping-block things, either from over-exuberance or anger over a touch-out.
And you would not believe what these children are able to do. There is a move called a scorpion. They take their foot and pull it in a circle behind them until their toes touch the backs of their heads. Standing up. Six feet or more, in the air. In someone else’s hands. While “projecting”.
It’s almost more than you can bear to watch. But we did, from 9 am until 6 pm, without a break. After so many groups, it’s funny how commonplace something unbelievable can become. No wonder this generation isn’t impressed as they are going through regimented exercises which would’ve put Mary Lou Retton into traction during her heyday. After several hours of similar routines, with varying degrees of success including lost bows, which is a deduction (in points), and somehow a lost shoe, which is another deduction, I almost couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know if there are points deducted for making overweight performers wear belly-shirts that Heidi Klum couldn’t pull off without some degree of embarrassment, but there should be. Those poor babies.
Prior to this experience I had never witnessed a scorpion other than once in my sister’s yard. After a while I began to get bored with the whole thing. The same snippets of songs, with similar routines. It sort of blurred together. By the end of the day after I had ingested more overpriced water and foot long corndogs than a felonious carnie worker, I began to view those amazing feats with bored derision like, “Is that all you’ve got Amberly? A scorpion? How about when you’re fully extended, you ring a bell with your feet or spell out Cheer Nation in sign language with your toes? Maybe then I’ll be impressed.” Knowing full well I could not contort by body into that shape with the assistance of a mechanical taffy puller and an overzealous chiropractor. Some things aren’t meant to move in those ways, least of all while wearing clearance sale Brooks Brothers.
When I saw the first team complete a scorpion, I felt compelled to give them a standing ovation. I stood and clapped but noticed the only people standing were the “cheer parents” of the performers. My sister just shook her head and laughed. By the end, I was done. I was so weak from the overwhelming too-much-ness of it all I would have agreed to chips and queso with Charles Manson to get back to the hotel.
Speaking of queso, I just remembered I have a leftover quesadilla in the refrigerator and I feel compelled to attend to this matter post haste or even quicker. So, I’ll leave you with this, I salute all those who cheer, those who clap along in the stands (psychotically or not), and most importantly, those who make Krispy Kreme donuts. Seriously, they’re doing the Lord’s work, y’all.
Oh and there is a picture of me from college doing a toe touch for the school yearbook floating around on Facebook somewhere. Happy hunting.