I keep the change that I periodically empty from my purse in a square glass dish near my desk. I’m sure there are better things to do with my money, and it’s not always convenient to get to on the sill behind my computer. I still do it, though, because every time I drop coins in the dish, I see my father.
My dad was a hard working man who put in long hours in a tool and die shop an hour away from home in order to provide a house that was probably more than he could afford for his family. Sometimes when he came through the door he wouldn’t even speak to us, but I knew he was home from the sound of his change hitting the dish in the junk drawer. He would empty his pockets a few steps away from the garage, releasing his day as he went. Some days it took longer before he spoke to us, but mostly by the time his change and keys and wallet were in the drawer, he was with us again, and work was left behind.
Back then, that was just the shape of the day. Now, I understand a little more of what he was doing; divesting his body as soon as he could of the things he had to have in the outside world. He didn’t need money or identification or keys in his workshop or at his dinner table. He didn’t need to answer to anybody, or punch a time clock. He was home.
The dish was the first thing I salvaged of my dad’s things when my mother moved into an apartment. It’s not good crystal or an interesting shape, or anything more than a storage vessel. It’s thick, sturdy, everyday glass. And every time, even now, the sound of coins dropping into the dish makes me see him standing at the drawer, head bent, making his way back to us.
I never thanked him for what he did, and he didn’t expect me to. I thank him now with each penny.
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 one thing that has been certain to keep me playing at least once a year has been a standing job for our brass quintet in a beautiful church for Easter. We have been playing there for almost twenty years, though there have been some years I missed for various reasons such as having a newborn. Of course, that means that Easter morning for my children has never been storybook. The Easter Bunny leaves his loot, but I hardly ever get to have a traditional morning with them. That has been left to their grandparents, mostly, since when the girls were little my in-laws would arrive the night before and be there when my daughters woke up, long after we had left for the sunrise service.
Am I cheating the kids, and myself, out of the tradition of Easter morning discoveries and egg hunts and family coming over? Sometimes I have felt that way but, looking at it dispassionately, some years this gig was the only thing that kept me playing. Life was so overwhelming through the baby and toddler era that only the thought of the extra money to do something with encouraged me to get my horn out and find enough endurance for three services. This year, I am coming at it from a different place since I am in the best musical shape I have been in a long time. This is not the only job I will be playing, but it will be a benchmark that will help me measure how far I have come.
My family does have an Easter morning tradition, it just doesn’t always include me. As long as I can play I’m okay with that.
For some moms, the title of this post will bring fond memories of exciting hours of shopping, filled with fun and frills. For others, it brings a wave of cold dread. I am somewhere in the middle: always hoping for the former, but ending up with the latter.
Two days ago, my oldest daughter and I trekked to two malls in search of prom-wear. It quickly became evident to us that it wasn’t the “perfect” dress we were looking for, but rather just a suitable one. We were feeling pretty ahead of the game this year, since last year we had to search the dregs left on the racks a couple of weeks before Senior Prom. This time the big dance isn’t for another two months. Plenty of time to find a dress, right? In two of the four major stores we shopped in, the racks were picked clean of anything remotely attractive. We began to set our sights lower.
There seemed to be two types of dresses – you could be a princess or in the cast of Jersey Shore. The worst ones were those that combined the two. The “royalty gone bad” genre was really quite distressing; you wondered what dreams the girls who would choose these had when they were little, and how they went so tragically wrong as they grew up. If you are of strong temperament, go ahead and google “prom dress” and you will see some of what we were up against. After many failed attempts, some so bad as to be comical, we finally came up with something with both elegance and beauty that we could both be happy with. I am lucky to have a daughter with very good taste.
Yesterday, my second oldest girl and I went out to search for a Junior Prom dress. Of course, this one snuck up on us, as the dance is next weekend. This is mostly how I operate, these days. Luckily it could be a short dress, and those were in much greater supply. Only one mall, and we fit dinner into the decision-making segment. How did we decide which of the final two dress choices to go with? That should be obvious. We got both. A girl can’t have too many cute dresses, can she?
We have a cedar climber at the back of the yard that used to get played on hard. We researched the best ones, ordered it in pieces, and spent a weekend building it with some friends when our first daughter was two and couldn’t even really use it yet. I hung an infant swing from a yardarm for her newborn sister to safely sway while I spent hours pushing her as she clutched tight to the pegs on the horse-swing. It was quite a few years before she learned to pump her legs on the regular sling swings, and the day she did was something of a celebration for me. Though I had two more children to get to that point, the independence it gave both of us was sweet.
All three girls found parts of the structure that were their favorites, though different sections were prime in different phases of their childhood. We had a toddler’s bouncy horse we left outside near the structure that used to get fed a mixture of mud and grass after the kids got too heavy to safely ride it. The pirate look-out off the one end let the girls watch for any hazards or threats. There were kitchen toys in the bottom section of the gazebo that were really meant to be inside items but just worked much better out there, growing faded with use and sunlight. The interior maze of the slide side of the climber got too hard to negotiate as they got too large for the bends and turns, so they just went up the outside of the tower like monkeys to get to the top of the slide.
They aged out one by one, as other pursuits became more important. The slide tower is now a spider’s paradise, the gazebo tower leans a little to the east, and these days all three girls could reach up and touch the swing ladder without having to stretch much. It’s time for it to go, before we fill the yard with well-wishers and relatives and neighbors celebrating that former two-year-old’s completion of high school. On the one hand, it will be nice to get our yard back and make it a little more adult and clear; perhaps I’ll get a grown-up gazebo out of the deal. On the other hand, I am a bit sad to contemplate looking out there and not seeing it. It has been a part of the view for a long time, and it’s disappearance will be a concrete admission that our girls have grown up.
The older girls don’t seem to have a problem with helping us dismantle it and move it to the trash, little by little, but the youngest girl is closer to having used it. She is more reluctant to see it go away so we may have to save the blue canvas-topped gazebo tower, move it back into the ivy out of the glare of the neighbor’s houses, and refurbish it into a pre-teen reading retreat.
That’s not a bad compromise. Maybe if I don’t get my grown-up version she’ll let me join her every so often this summer. I’ll bring my own pillow.
It must be Spring. One of the harbingers of the season just occurred: a brand-spanking new softball shirt, shorts, socks and visor just entered the house.
Seasons ago, when we had all three girls on a team each spring, it got fairly crazy making sure practices were made for all teams and games were written in ink on the schedule. The family would sometimes have to split up to get all the girls where they needed to be. We usually ended up having three places to be at the same time, but somehow we managed. I try to get to all the girl’s games so it got to be difficult to have it all work out evenly.
This year there is only the youngest daughter on a team. It should be a bit easier to manage, though I miss having the older girls participate too. They are just too busy, and the league changes as you get older. Not enough teams to play, all the better players are off on travel teams, and my girls have never wanted to give that kind of time to softball. They always had a hundred other things to do as well. Now my challenge with them will be to insure that they make it to some of their sister’s games, since she has been to most of theirs involuntarily, when she was younger and needed to be with me.
I always played ball in the summer as I was growing up. I loved the feel of the bat connecting solidly, then pounding to first base and beyond. I played catcher whenever I could, because other than the pitcher they are the ones getting the most action in the game, and I liked being the pitcher’s partner. My mom used to say I was almost born at a baseball field during one of my brother’s games. I had always hoped my kids would get as much enjoyment out of it that I had.
So far we’ve only got the uniform, but practices start soon and we should get out and throw the ball some to get in shape. Luckily the sun is shining and an afternoon stretches before us. Now if I can just find my mitt…
I enjoy getting ready for a concert. There is an expectant rush to what are usually every day occurences. Morning ablutions turn almost ritualistic, and perhaps I take a little more care with how everything comes out. I set out my clothes piece by piece, making sure all is stage ready. Putting on the black concert outfit, though it’s not a tuxedo like the men, always puts me in a different frame of mind.
I begin to look forward to the music, thinking through the pieces in my mind, thinking through the list of what I have to take, what I need for the performance, making sure all pieces of my concert dress are just right, and that I am fully prepared. I might warm up at home, or arrive early to the concert venue to play a bit and get limber. For the concert today, we have a morning rehearsal before the afternoon concert, so I have to think about pacing myself too, so that I can be at peak condition at the performance and not before.
Getting ready for a concert also reminds me of the many other times I have done this in my life. It becomes another pearl on the string, bringing a continuity to this re-energizing of my music making, tying me to my younger self. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of concert it is, it is still a pre-battle readying.
The concert will be enjoyable to play, but the anticipation of the prep makes it something special.