If you grew up in Texas and participated in the homecoming mum tradition, you might not have paid any mind to the tradition beyond trying to find–or make one–suitable for your homecoming date. But local author Amy J. Schultz, a Texas transplant, had her curiosity piqued when a friend was participating in the mum process for one of her children.
“I really think that that informed my exploration from the very beginning,” Shultz said. “But as I talked to young men, young women, as well as adults that are involved in the tradition, in one way or another, they just kept telling me the same thing over and over: that this is a tradition that’s driven by women, period.”
Usually that woman is a student’s Mom, but Schultz clarifies that what she means by Mom is shorthand for someone who is “a caring, loving adult woman who is involved in a student’s life and cares about what they’re into as a teenager.”
For the uninitiated, homecoming mums are a nearly 100-year-old tradition practiced across the southeastern United States when a high school teen gives their date an extravagant corsage prior to taking them to a big football game. But as are most things in Texas, the tradition is bigger here.
“If you go to your local Michael store, and you walk down an aisle during the early fall, what you see are not just the flowers, but you see customized ribbons with the name of your local high school on it and every color in the rainbow,” Schultz said. “You can customize a mum to the very nth degree if you want to. And even to the point where it’s like, if your school is royal blue, not navy blue, you can buy royal blue things with your high school name on it.”
Schultz, an award-winning photographer, initially started this project as a series of photographs shot at one high school, but it eventually bloomed into a full blown multimedia exhibit at the Arlington Museum of Art in 2019. Whataburger sponsored the exhibit and contributed an 18-foot Whataburger-styled mum to hang at the museum as their sponsor board. That Whataburger mum story went viral and the AMA began offering Mumentous as a traveling exhibit. Meanwhile, Schultz continued her research into the subject, culminating in the publication of this book.
One of those stories that stands out to Schultz is the story about a grandmother and a mom who went to a craft store with pieces of grandma’s mum, mom’s mum, and mom’s daughter’s mum. They wanted to assemble a mum with pieces assembled from the three generations in order to gift a mum to their daughter, who was caring for a newborn.
“The fact that it wasn’t really tied to football anymore, right? It was more an expression of the family’s love,” Schultz said. “And I thought that was beautiful.”
Schultz made an artistic decision to showcase her images in black and white, to evoke a nostalgic timeless feel, and to encourage an appreciation for the mums beyond the school colors that might be associated with them.
Her book, MUMENTOUS, can be purchased at Amazon.com, Goodreads, Target.com and Barnes and Noble. For more information about the book and background on the project, visit her website at www.unplainjanestudio.com.