Monday, March 21, 2011
Band Geeks (re) Unite!
We're getting the band back together! The marching band, that is. After more than twenty-five years apart, a group of former band geeks (well, I'll only speak for myself) dating all the way back to the class of 1978 will be gathering around drink coolers and finger food for an afternoon of story telling and marveling at how none of us has aged. I'm sure we'll laugh about those heavy, red uniforms, lousy with gold buttons (Brasso, anyone?), that made us sweat straight through our underwear in August and those embarrassingly tall, furry hats that made this group of teenagers look like we should be guarding the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West instead of marching in time across a football field. I'm hoping that once the adult beverages come out, so will stories divulging what happened that one time at band camp and maybe even a few secrets will be spilled about the antics in the back of the dark bus on the ride home from late-night competitions. Ah, yes...a bunch of forty-somethings smiling and laughing like teenagers without mortgages and steady jobs, and I can't wait.
Music fills nearly every waking moment of my life. There was never any question that I would be in the band. I watched as my older brother excelled in music, and I wanted to follow in his foot steps. Being four years younger than he, I idolized his high school friends with their feathered hair and freedom. He would take me with him to marching band practice, and I can vividly remember those cool, autumn nights as I sat on the top step of the school and watched them rehearse below me on the parking lot. I tried so hard to act cool when I was actually allowed to enter The Band Room with the older kids, but cool doesn't come easy to a dorky eighth-grader. (Come to think of it, cool doesn't come easy to a dorky forty-two-year-old either.) I fell desperately in love with no less than half a dozen of these high school boys, most of whom didn't even know this shy thirteen-year-old girl existed. They had no idea how I would melt inside with just a passing smile and "Hello". For those few brief minutes, I pretended I belonged there. Oh, how I counted the days until my sophomore year, waiting impatiently to be a part of this musical family.
When my time finally came, I ditched my saxophone during marching season so that I could be on the color guard. It was a position that would put my smiling face in front of the band, twirling a rifle for the world (well, a small fraction of North and South Carolina) to see. Plus, it got me out of wearing those God-awful uniforms, although an ascot, cummerbund and beret weren't showing up on fashion runways at the time.
It was hard work. I remember those sweltering days on the ball field at camp, relentlessly practicing our routines. My big 80's hair helmet wilted under the blazing sun and stifling humidity. There were days when I thought I would spontaneously burst into flames right there on the fifty yard line. It was worth it, though. I remember having tears in my eyes the first time we marched onto the field for a Friday night football game. I was so proud of Us, so proud of what we had accomplished in those few, short months. We were, in my opinion, spectacular, and I was in my element at last.
But, things changed for me after a while. I began to feel conflicted about the perceived stigma of being in the band. My heart was telling me to stay, but that insecure part of me that was ravenously craving popularity was telling me to go. I longed to be a part of the other side of Friday night - the cheerleaders and football players. I wanted to be noticed, and who would give this dork a second look if I was hiding behind a big, red cummerbund?
So, I quit. It broke my heart, but I took the poor advice of "friends" who didn't know the real person behind the Aqua Net hairdo. I never did make it with the "cool" crowd, but in retrospect, it's no surprise. What I was too young and stupid to see at the time was that being a part of this marching band gave me the confidence that I lacked everywhere else in my life. When I stood on that field, I felt invincible and accepted. What I wouldn't give to experience that incredible rush of emotion today.
I'm counting down the days again, but this time the only sweat will be on the outside of my cup of wine. I still have those same butterflies in my stomach just like I did when I was thirteen. The thought of seeing these grown-up teenagers makes me anxious with worry that I'm still as geeky as I ever was. I will probably still avoid eye contact and twirl my hair, but I'm going to try to follow our beloved band director's advice: Don't hesitate, anticipate, or look at the ground...or something like that.