I was in marching band all through high school, two years of college, and worked with and directed marching bands my whole public school teaching career. I have found it to be a great activity, even the glue that keeps some kids attending school. The members become family, they take care of each other, and they are (usually) a part of the group for their full four years in school, making the friendships they make there very tight and close, lasting over the years long after their participation is done. Band geeks, proud and simple.
I always wanted that opportunity and experience for my daughters, and I was quietly happy that they all chose to play instruments and even seemed cautiously enthusiastic about the rigors of marching. They’ll tell a different story, probably, one in which we made them march for at least a year. Maybe I did say that, but only because I knew what having a band family meant and I knew that once they saw what it was about, they would appreciate it as much as I did. If they had never tried, they would never have known.
High school football games are not my favorite activity to attend. They are often cold, sometimes rainy, always long evenings of a sport which is merely an addendum to why I and many other parents are really there. I have made it to every one that I possibly could, including the band parent’s tailgates before the games to feed the kids, just to be there to watch my daughters perform. Tonight is the last marching band show at a home game for my middle child. This will be Senior Night at the stadium, where all the Seniors in all the activities of the evening will be recognized: football, cheerleading, pom pon squad, and of course, band. Though they have a few more marching competitions to aim for and the season is far from over, that makes this game an ending of sorts, a last.
Tonight I get to be a peripheral part of her high school band family again, and it seems like I should be sad to see the end of something that has played a big part in her life for the past four years. Instead, I’ll get my picture taken with my tall Senior, and I’ll be the one beaming.
The drummer leaned over during rehearsal last night and said, “I’m a band director, and you know what I always asked my kids? ‘What’s the difference between a twelve year old trumpet player and an adult one?’ (Meaningful pause…) ‘Not a thing.’ (Ba-dump-ching!)”
One of the interesting side effects of my re-dedication to music has been not having to work to rediscover my younger self. Seems she was there all along, and as soon as I sit down in a section of brass players she grins slyly and pops out in most of her glory. I may be a hair less quick-witted and my mom persona sometimes sensors that brassy girl, but when the other guys in the section are telling jokes, making bad puns, and singing songs from “Blazing Saddles” (fake Teutonic accents and all) in between making great music, it’s like I never grew up.
It’s not just the group I played with last night, either. It seems as though every time I sit down in a row of brass players I morph into a wry jokester, goofing around and saying whatever comes to mind, usually sotto voce so the director won’t hear but my section mates will. Sometimes an opportunity arises to pop off to the whole group, but I think the other musicians just expect that from us; I’d hate to not meet their expectations, after all. The trick is to be able to have some fun with it and still hit every note just like you meant to.
Getting back to ensemble playing has been a little like meeting up with an old friend; no matter how many years it’s been since you’ve seen them, you pick up right where you left off and continue the conversation you were having, full of laughter and joy.
A man uses his snowblower on all the driveways and sidewalks on his street after the last big snowstorm. He was out there already, it needed to be done, he had the time. Only one neighbor said thanks afterward, probably not in an “if I thank him he will do it again” kind of way, but just because he was surprised and grateful. The neighbor may have been facing challenges that day and was unable to get out there and do it, or maybe he was just heading out to do it himself and noticed it done. Either way, he thanked the man and went on his way, but things like that have a way of being remembered. The simple appreciative word sticks in the man’s mind. When it snows again, he does his drive and the one belonging to the grateful neighbor. Only those two.
A friend posted yesterday about the “sucktacular” day they were having. I posted a hug back their way, just because it’s what I would have done had they been in the room with me. It took me nine keystrokes and a hit on the enter key to accomplish it, and late last night she wrote a in a note, “…it is usually the little things, when positive, that bring me such great joy, and become my shield against the negative little things. Gratefully those appeared today as well. A virtual hug from a friend. Supportive words from my fellow admins. and friends…”. I was completely surprised that my small and instinctive response made a difference, no matter how minor, to my friend.
A simple gesture costs nothing, and you never know how much it’s needed or how it will be received.