Awhile back I addressed the whole high school/college football homecoming mum phenomenon that’s evidently a Texas-only kind of thing. Sure enough, one of my gal pals, Juls, who is not from Texas, shot an e mail about ‘em out to our little gang of four very close friends, and the e mail traffic was just too good not to publish for all y’all.
Juls wrote: “I worked today selling homecoming mums for a fundraiser at Jasmin's school. While I've seen these elaborate ‘things’ at (a craft store) before, I've never known what they are. We never had anything like this up north so I don't really understand it. I got roped into selling them but I don't really get it. What are they FOR? I'd love to hear your take on this Texas tradition.”
Our resident super-Texan (other than myself, of course), Chris, wrote: “Mums are a cheap flower that give you a lot of bang for your buck. We, at Fairfield High School, have the school colors of maroon and gold, therefore we have mums in those colors to use as bases. We also use white, but usually only old ladies wear the white ones. They are used to show school spirit during Homecoming Week; at least that is how it started out.
“When I was in school, it was the gauge you used to measure the love your boyfriend had for you,” she continued. “The bigger and gaudier your mum was, the more he loved you. I do believe it was during the 1980s when mums started getting out of hand.
“I know one girl who had a triple mum: 3 HUGE maroon mums, pipe cleaner F H S letters glued on top of them, covered in net (helps keep the petals from dropping) and about 20 glitter-lettered ribbons hanging from the bottom of it, conveying messages from ‘GO EAGLES,’ ‘HOMECOMING 1980,’ ‘SENIOR 1981,’ ‘FLAG CORPS,’ ‘BAND,’ ‘RODEO CLUB,’ and the ever important, ‘JOHN LOVES BECKY,’ plus love knot ribbons, braided ribbons, ribbons with tiny gold footballs, tiny cow bells, tiny football helmets, horseshoes; if they made it into a plastic charm, it was dangling from that mum. The ribbons hung to the top of her boots. I, being the sweetheart I am, told her she looked like a @#*&$% bush, and to take that ugly @#*&$% thing off before we hit the field for halftime (I was Flag Corps Captain).
“When Sabrina was in high school, mums went all high tech with tiny battery powered lights that illuminated your mum. Ours in the 1980s ranged in price from about $15-$50. I think I paid around $120 for the one Aubrey got Emily his senior year, and it isn't unheard of for them to go for $200 a pop now a days.”
Niki wrote: “I've MADE mums that cost $250 in materials alone - that was 3 years ago!
“Mums are a way for people to show their importance in today's high school society - not even love of a boyfriend/girlfriend anymore. Parents give them to their kids, friend to friend, significant other to significant other - whatever.
“Our district still emphasizes the white mums, but then again, our colors are Columbia blue, red and white. They're just outlandish these days with stuffed animals and junk all over them; LED lights (are) in the flowers and braided into the hanging ribbons.”
“Oh…and you have to save the mums for all eternity afterward,” I added. “You keep ‘em hung up in your bedroom until they completely fall apart or the moths eat ‘em.”
Juls responded: “Thank you for filling me in on these. I knew you gals would have better insight into these things than I ever could. I saw them done in north Texas as well as here, but nowhere else so I think this is just a Texas thing.
“Because this is the first year they are being done at Jasmin's school (at least since the last 5 years) some of the kids had the same question, ‘What are they FOR?’ The mums we are making use a fake silk flower mum (you can choose what size and single or double) and ribbons and the ‘basic’ trinket package. The base mum is $45 which I'm told is a steal.
“I am curious; why chrysanthemums, though? I have always associated mums with funerals. Every family funeral I've ever been to I've come home with pots of chrysanthemums.”
Chris answered: “‘Cause they are cheap to buy fresh, they are in season and they last along time out of water. When this first started, there weren’t any silk mums.”
And that’s where the conversation ended. I must interject here that I am appalled that a TEXAS high school would curtail the mum tradition. An entire era of Texas high school students went without mums. I think that’s shameful.
But then, Juls lives in Houston. I’m just glad the school administration and parents saw the light before it was too late.
I don’t follow the series, mostly because I am horrified by the way the Hollywood entertainment machine boogers up all things Texan, but I am surprised the series “Friday Night Lights” (set in West Texas and allegedly all about Texas high school football) hasn’t addressed the all-important homecoming mum issue. It is, after all, very central to Texas high school football culture.
But then that would require Hollywood to actually understand Texas in the first place, and folks, that’s not happening anytime soon.
First printed in Tex Messages, The Fort Hood Sentinel, 2009.