Letter From Floridanby Janet Scott BarlownHow I Spent My Christmas VacationnThe day after Christmas this familyntook off for the National CheerleadersnAssociation’s High School CheerleadersnNational Championship in Orlando,nFlorida. The National CheerleadersnAssociation’s High SchoolnCheerleaders National Championshipnis not the kind of event a parent—thisnparent, anyway—ever anticipates attending.nIt is the kind of event a parentndiscovers herself at because of the interestsnor accomplishments of hernchild.nI spent three days at this competitionnin order to see my daughter andnher friends, nine girls I like, do anroutine lasting exactly two minutesnand eight seconds, a routine on whichnthey had worked every day for fournmonths while still maintaining civilnrelationships with one another—a featnI considered easily as impressive asnmaking it to the National CheerleadersnAssociation’s High School CheerleadersnNational Championship in the firstnplace.nThese girls went to Florida as competitivennovices, the first squad in theirnschool’s history to be so chosen. A hintnthat they might not completely reflectnthe nature of the event came at thenOrlando airport when I saw countlessnflocks of girls (and a few boys) inncoordinated outfits, carrying countlessnmatching, custom-made garmentnbags, which held countless cheerleadingnuniforms, shoes, pom-poms, andnhair ribbons. Shepherding these girlsnwere countless parents and advisers,nmost of them attired in their kids’nschool colors. In addition, these adultsnappeared to be wearing what is referrednto in the sports world as a “game face.”nThey were serious.nAs for my daughter, she was wearingnCORRESPONDENCEna sweatsuit, and her single cheerleadingnuniform was folded in a Baggie innher suitcase. To make things evennmore interesting, the suitcase containingnthe Baggie containing the uniformn(not to mention the rest of her clothes)nhad missed the connection in Atianta.nThe suitcase, we were assured, wouldnarrive “in an hour and a half” Somethingntold me that the chances of thensuitcase arriving in an hour and a halfnwere about even with my finding angame face for the National CheerleadersnAssociation’s High School CheerleadersnNational Championship.nEight hours later the suitcase arrived,nand we rushed it to our daughter’snhotel. Parents were not allowed tonstay in the same hotel with cheerlead­nnners, a rule I saw the wisdom of whilendelivering the suitcase. The elevatorsnwere jammed with barefoot girls. Thenhallways were filled with the sound ofnsquealing and the smell of nail polish.nThe place was one giant slumber partyn—a glorious environment if you aren16 years old, a form of punishment ifnyou are 42 and lacking a game face.nWhile at the hotel, my husband andnI went to the ballroom to watch thengirls practice. For those who tend tontense up at the sight of young bodiesnflying, flipping, leaping, and falling,nthis was another environment tonavoid. Me, I tend to tense up. Fast.nWe stood against the wall, one of usnnervous, one of us having a great time,nwatching the varsity cheerleaders fromnJULY 1987/37n