“Homecoming!” What Does it Mean to You?

Sandy Taradash's granddaughter Shayna decorates a Homecoming float
Sandy Taradash’s granddaughter Shayna decorates a Homecoming float

I recently had the craziest conversation with my 16-year-old granddaughter, Shayna. I thought it was crazy/funny and I believe she must have thought I was definitely crazy and from another planet, and for sure, UNWOKED! (not in the knowing of current stuff!)

She had called me earlier in the day to come to her high school where she was working with classmates to prepare for Homecoming Week and she wanted me to see her work. (Yes, I was sooooo pleased she called me!) As an accomplished artist, she was recruited to do much of the painting to decorate the school hallways with the Homecoming theme of Bands from the Past and her Junior Class picked The Beach Boys as their musical favorite realizing there was lots of ideas for decorating. And as California students, what says a blast from the past better than The Beach Boys? (Obviously, their parents were good teachers in music history!)

As I approached the area where Shayna was working, I see her sitting on the ground painting with a huge smile on her face and loving every minute of her assignment. Several assisting adults came up to me expressing how they could not have the exciting and colorful décor without Shayna’s skills and ideas! KVELL MOMENT!! Shayna escorted me around to see her other finished pieces and the overall creative themes from the other classes, such a fun tribute to my music era!

As I was leaving and smothering her with kisses and accolades, I asked Shayna if her brother, Jacob, (he graduated the previous year) was coming to Homecoming — the Friday festivities, the football game, the dance —remember? and with a look of total incredulous surprise, Shayna almost screamed at me, “WHY WOULD JACOB COME TO MY HOMECOMING???”

My incredulous response was, “It’s HOMECOMING! He graduated last year! Why wouldn’t he come to HOMECOMING?”

“Butzee! This is 2019-2020 HOMECOMING, not last years! Why would Jacob have any interest coming this year???!!!”

“Shayna! H-O-M-E-C-O-M-I-N-G! Alumni come to HOMECOMING! Do you know what alumni are?? HOMECOMING is for alumni! Hence, the word HOMECOMING!!!”

Another look from her like I was an alien from another world with a “tsk-tsk” and, “Butzee, I’m very busy! Thanks so much for coming! Love ‘ya!”

I laughed the entire day! And then I got sad. I realized that teens today have no idea what the purpose of HOMECOMING is! In today’s world, too many young people have been conditioned (social media?) to see and feel the world only through their eyes! I’m not sure this is entirely their fault or just the attrition of our society in the era of 2020.

To so many of us, 2020 was the future of the unknown as we anticipated it back in the ’60s. It was scary! And the reality is, to many of us, it is way beyond what we could have ever imagined! Maybe scarier? So I ended up realizing HOMECOMING 2020 is for the high school students to plan a fun weekend where they can revel in their school spirit and friends with NO thought of the past or those who attended their sacred ground.

And this led me to harboring on the word homecoming for days. I remember my junior-year Homecoming weekend like it was yesterday — for me it was a fun weekend but ended Sunday night in tragedy with the death of my parents in a car accident when a drunken driver crashed into us. But I still look fondly on all the preparations my classmates and I did to ensure the alumni had a great time by continuing their devotion and school spirit. It was all about creating a memory for the alumni.

Shayna’s school HOMECOMING has a different purpose. I’m not making a  judgment, just a realization of how times have changed.

And then I found my mind continuing to wander about HOMECOMING. I recently was Googling some areas of my hometown, Los Angeles, and how much the city has changed in the 35 years since I moved to the Bay Area. I often get tears in my eyes because I “want to go home.” Home. Coming home. Going home.

But where is “home?” Is it my beloved suburb 20 minutes outside of downtown Los Angeles where I grew up with my parents, huge extended family, going to school with lots of my cousins, where my parents and their high school friends were raising their kids and their kids were my friends? Is home my beloved Temple where all my cousins and friends centered our social life with BBG and AZA? Is home where security was a given, no worries of ever having our picture on a milk carton (have you seen this kid?)? Is home where we had earthquake drills falling under our school desks and not school lockdown drills because of a shooter on campus?

Is HOME a state of mind that brings us peace, safety, loving arms that protect us, the smell of chicken soup that someone else (mom or bubbe) made? Is home just the place we were kids and could leave our house at 10 a.m. and ride our bike from friend to friend without checking in with mom every hour?

Being an adult is hard. So many responsibilities. So much to do. So many people to take care of. So much money to have to earn. So exhausting.

Is HOME just a place where being a kid is what childhood is all about, no worries other than getting our homework done, emptying the garbage for mom and planning HOMECOMING?

Is home a place we should just leave in our bank of memories and not have the illusions shattered? Or is home the real deal?

I’d like to go home. But in 2020 my home is only one place: Where my kids and grandkids are, and where my pillow is.

Where is your HOME?


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