Back in the day, when I was a kid in school, there was very little I loved more than Spirit Day. You remember them, right? They were those magical days when we got to smear on face paint, spray paint our hair blue, wear fluorescent knee socks, and rock our school colors in every clever way we could think of that involved hair products, makeup, and accessories.
And the vibe in school on those days, when we walked through the halls, was, well, electric. Everybody tried to outdo everybody else, but the beauty was that it was all in the name of school spirit. So the more over-the-top we were the better. Loud and proud was the only rule. And it unified us. All of us.
I think what I loved most about it was that our cohesive school spirit transcended the day-to-day social hierarchy that swirled around us every day. And considering no one was putting my name on the ballot for prom queen, it was a day when social status didn’t matter. (And kids like me loved that.) It was a day when everyone was just a Magician or a Tiger or a Bulldog or a Panther.
Spirit days united the geeks and the jocks and the drama kids and the musicians and the art kids because it created harmony. It gave us a common goal. And it even gave us a reason to embrace the teachers we didn’t like, because they were usually the ones who revealed a totally different side of themselves when they got to show off their creative, spirited side. It leveled the playing field, is what it did. And gave us all a unique kind of license, just for that one day, to be as loud and obnoxious as possible. And sometimes, it even changed the course of our school experience, often bridging gaps between people who were never friends before they realized they shared this one, priceless bond.
Think about it. What’s the number one criteria of any pep rally? Show your pride. And that’s exactly what we did. And those are the days I remember with such fondness. I mean, who doesn’t remember the kid who shaved the school mascot into the side of his whiffle? We all remember that kid. Or the guys who came shirtless to the Thanksgiving Day football game, painted from the waist up in black and red paint. Or the kid who made the most creative sign.
Take today, for example, at the elementary school where I work. There were teachers and kids alike walking around in hot pink and electric blue wigs and day glow yellow tights and neon tutus. Just like it was any other Friday. And I’m honestly not sure who loved it more, us or the kids. Because these are the things we remember as kids.
I mean, when you really dissect your “school experience,” the greatness of those years isn’t dictated by the buildings we sat in, or the twenty-first century technology that was integrated into the classrooms, or the size and scope of the campus; it’s the relationships we form there and the pride that we all have in our school community. That’s the essence of spirit right there.
I still vividly remember sitting on the top row of the bleachers in our gym, looking down on a sea of red and black and feeling like we were all somehow connected, that we all shared a common bond. Everyone screaming and cheering and inspiring each other. It filled you up in a way that few other things could.
Still, to this day, after all these years, I can envision the teachers and the kids who went above and beyond to look as ridiculous (I mean spirited) as possible for that one, special day. They left a mark. A good mark. And they helped to create a bond—a bond that many of us still feel when we’re together. Even after all these years.
So while I may have looked more than a little ridiculous this morning when I left the house in a denim miniskirt, with neon striped knee socks and a flaming safety yellow shirt, it was worth the extra effort when I saw the faces of all the kids when I walked through the main lobby. They loved it. They felt like I was one of them. And so did I.
In the end, it makes the time we all spend together, day in and day out for all those years, more exciting and more memorable. So as annoying as it is to have to power wash the bathtub and buy a new curtain liner every time we spray paint our son’s head blue, we need to embrace it as parents and encourage our kids to partake in it now while they can. Because while aqua marine hair may only be temporary, pride is forever. Go Magicians!
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.