Flags, marching bands, queens and kings replete with crowns, sashes, flowers and snazzy carriages, painted windows, fireworks, games and festivities - must be Homecoming! Or better yet, this year in Tahlequah, it's the homecoming month of September.
If homecoming is truly just that, the returning home to reconnect, the month started with the Cherokee National Holiday, moved through Tahlequah Public Schools homecoming last week, to NSU's homecoming closing the month.
When we talk of homecoming, we naturally turn to nostalgia, old friends, retelling old stories, revisiting buildings, places and feelings the meant so much. I would like to propose though, that we've had a different kind of homecoming taking place in Tahlequah throughout the last several months. We've had a tremendous influx of people coming to town, not looking for their past, but rather, looking to the future. These individuals and families are coming to Tahlequah looking for home, for that place that makes them feel welcome and comfortable.
In this regard, homecoming isn't limited to a few days during a certain month. Coming home happens every day, all year long. And if you stretch the thought a little bit further, coming home sometimes happens to people who have been here for quite a while. We have a number of individuals who come to Tahlequah in a "temporary" state of mind, whether to attend school, work a short term job, or a break from another life. Literally years later, they may realize that Tahlequah has become home - or at least their home of choice - and the mindset flips from "temporary" mode to "invested and long term."
F. Scott Fitzgerald noted, "It's a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what's changed is you." That pretty much sums up the mental homecoming. It's a mindset that you control. You're either willing to jump in and become a part of the community, or you aren't. Tahlequah offers lots of opportunities for you to be a part of the team. If you're here "temporarily," even if it's been years, there's a good chance you won't take advantage of those.
People ask sometimes how to connect. It's difficult in this age of social media and the pandemic to get to know others with similar interests and concerns. Oh, you can find them online, but it's not the same as having someone you can call for a quick chat or cup of coffee. Suggesting that some of the methods of the nostalgic homecoming work for the future facing, you join in the games, festivities, and planning committees. You support those who are doing the work. More directly, you attend and join churches, service organizations, special interest clubs, or other like entities. How do you find these? Your local newspaper is a good start with their listings of events, meetings, and churches.
"At the end of the day, it isn't where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I'm going and never have been before," wrote Warson Shire, young poet laureate for London, as she mused in her poem "Home." She may be onto something there.
Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.