Somewhere in my parents' house, I think I still have a corsage from some dance in high school. A little rose on a sparkly elastic band, which I wore awkwardly around my wrist. You know the drill.
In Texas, though, they have a different drill. Photographer Nancy Newberry recalls her first "mum" — short for chrysanthemum — which her mom made for her in high school. The uniquely Texan homecoming tradition of sporting an "explosion of a corsage," as Newberry describes it, goes back decades.
Traditionally, a girl receives a mum from her boyfriend or loved one — be it Mom or a friend. Boys wear them, too, but with a different name of course ("garters") and a different placement (around the arm).
There are unspoken rules, too. It would be gauche, for example, for a freshman to wear a mum as large as a senior's. The mum's size must correlate to one's seniority in school. Colors and additional embellishments are also reserved for upperclassmen.
So the mum continues to blossom and grow over a four-year period — but also, Newberry says, mums have gotten bigger in general since she was in high school. "Bigger is better, I guess," she says on the phone.
Newberry sees it as a fun way to connect with her past and with teenagers now. Although my mind immediately goes to these amazing portraits by Phyllis Galembo — showing the sartorial rituals of masquerade in Nigeria.
Which isn't a far stretch to Newberry, who can get kind of academic about the project, too. She writes via email: "I am really interested in the mums as ritual objects, how they help shape personal identity and how they become a part of the unique landscape and language of a place."
But let's get real. Who cares about academics in high school?
What's the homecoming tradition in your town? If you live in Texas, put your photo in the comments!