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I could explain my whole life away

This week I've found myself in one of those moods where it doesn't take a lot to make me cry. Yesterday all it took was this NPR story about paper bags. (A hunt inspired by a bag I received made by Maribel Dominguez, on June 14, 2007.)

Nothing, however, has made me get as teary this week as the return of Friday Night Lights has. Every time I see it mentioned, I feel my heart rise into my throat, and I suddenly and helplessly begin to choke back what I think might be really embarrassing tears. And when I say tears, I mean the type of tears that showed up the first time I spent a week away from home, and the moment I saw my mother again I couldn't hold back, I suddenly found myself sobbing and I couldn't understand why.

In the best possible scenario, I think it might be a symptom of the great quality of current television, the show's genius acting and unique approach to direction, to paraphrase a co-worker, that someone could get as emotional about a television show as they might about a book.

But really? It's a great show, but hardly perfect. Even I sometimes tune out while watching it; the dialogue sinks into the background and I find myself daydreaming.

I think my reaction comes down to the homecoming parade.

It's October. Autumn. Somewhere in the distant matter of my brain I have a homecoming parade marching band circling round and round, stamping white patent leather boots up brick streets covered with fallen leaves, powering the gears that run the lights in my little Nostalgia Mill. The marching band was the late summer and early autumn soundtrack to life in my small town, a life I proclaimed at the time to be evil and stifling, but a life which made me more who I am today than Sylvia Plath or Siouxsie Sioux or Poe or Kevin Shields - as much as I wish I could say they did - combined. Picket fences and church bells; fight songs and bleachers. That's what little midwestern girls are made of.

The kids in my town were a periwinkle mix of blue collar - farmers' kids and factory workers' kids - and white - the sons and daughters of university professors. Autumn brought us all to school together, where we all had our own idea of our relationships to life and to each other, and yet where we were all defined by our relationship to sports: either you did it, or you didn't. And all shades of periwinkle played football.

I thought I could be clever in both worlds: I joined the tennis team because all the girls on it listened to The Cure and REM. I thought this somehow made me intellectual. But when my idea of rebelling was reading Kerouac on a bench under an old rusted water tower after tennis practice, there were kids out there earning scholarships to Kerouac's alma mater by playing football. And as much as I railed against it, I still went to the homecoming parade.

And that parade, the first one to come out of the Mill: I was four, sitting on a curb with the neighbor kids. Surely we all wore shades of brown, navy blue, wool, Osh Kosh. Candy tossed by sorority girls from tissue papered floats was our only worldly concern. There were drums coming up the street. The leaves gathered in gutters. The air was bright. Until the drums came, nothing could touch our world. There was nothing bad. Nothing worse than having less candy than your neighbor. But that terrible rumbling, that distant ominous sound - something was coming, and it was awful, and wonderful, and I can remember my little heart thumping in my throat, and I turned around in search of my father's leg to grab hold of...

Now I honestly (and possibly not for the first time) don't know how these paragraphs I'm writing are supposed to add up. I didn't plan to write this much: a simple "hey, this show I really like comes back on tonight" would have sufficed.

I think what I'm doing is trying to make sense of this emotional reaction that runs far deeper than any healthy feelings should for a show about football in Texas. I make wide-brushed sentimental connections - to the marching band, to the tissue paper floats, to the grass and autumn leaves, to Kerouac and brick streets - in an attempt to contextualize the lump in my throat, the ridiculousness of the swelling tears. I have the desire to turn every experience into something literary. I want the girl who reads Kerouac on a bench to have a place in this story. So I draw parallel lines. Homecoming, autumn, screen doors, ribbons, fences, floats, facepaint, football = home.

But, really? It's not home; it's just a television show. The tears probably come from somewhere much more simple. After all, it doesn't take much these days. Even a paper bag can make me cry.

(Last night, after writing most of this post, I had a dream that I was trying to put tin foil in my eyes instead of contact lenses. That marching band is trying to tell me something. So, for those of you who don't want square eyes, or "tin foil eyes", if you live in New York this weekend you can also get emotional over The New Yorker Festival, or Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Les Savy Fav, and Blonde Redhead at Randall's Island John McGrew at Rockwood Music Hall. I doubt I'll make it to either. So the tin foil tells me.)

Reader Comments (2)

If I have one complaint about FNL, besides the murder in season 2, it would be the lack of High School band music. The drums especially signify the tense moments leading up to a game. You'd think they could forgo Explosions in the Sky during some of those pre-game moments.

I love this show and I really didn't think I would.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

AMEN to it needing more marching band music. Bring on the drumlines and the tubas! Secret: I get a lump in my throat when I hear marching bands. Doesn't matter what they're playing. Watching the best damn band in the land do Script Ohio? When they dot the i? CHILLS. That would have totally made up for the murder.

July 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterZan McQuade

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