I'm 50 years old and blessed to have had every year! I've been married to a great guy for 27 years and have three young adult children. I live on a farm that has been in my family for 5 generations, in a house that has sheltered 4 generations. We practice an ecologically sound lifestyle as has been lived here before us. I was raised here, on the homeplace, by my great aunts and uncles, who taught me much and held in high esteem the satisfaction of a good days work, wise choices and the love and care of all who fell within the circle of their concern.
This morning I attended the funeral of a dear friend. Someone I've known since childhood and in these past years, we've shared a church family. A fairly sudden serious illness, a sudden loss of one among us who will be missed. The hope of Easter fullfilled in our midst, so real that we can touch it.
Today was filled with all of those up and down emotions that come with these living life experiences.
Sadness for your loss and for the pain of his loved ones, laughter at memories so very true and sweet,
that ridiculous intermingling of all of those emotions where at one instant you don't know exactly how to describe the feeling... except that it is certainly one of those times in life that you are presently aware of the fact that you are, indeed, alive.
I became very, very aware, while standing in the cemetery, of the eyes that I looked into.
Brightest, clearest blue, crinkled with a smile.
Darkest, deepest brown filled with a tear that has yet to drop.
Green with gold flecks that radiate.
Blankness of expression or
Glint of depth of pain.
... the mama's reading this... you're gonna need a tissue... maybe some of the rest of you too...
Last night was the Band Awards Banquet... of his senior year.
Truthfully, he's only had two band banquets...before last year, we didn't have these.
Awards, when they were given, were passed out at the end of year concert.
This is way different... and I offer up a special gratitude to those who made this happen, those who planned and prepared, cooked and decorated and made it pull off without a hitch.
I love the banquet. I love to see the light in their eyes, their 'spit-shined' appearance, all curls and glitter and heels, suits,ties and dress shoes and a dozen fragrances rolled into a happy, twitter-pated moment. In a world where casual is the 'standard' and slouch is an actual fashion term, there is a night were they're so beautiful that that alone brings tears to my eyes.
And then there's this
Time and time and time again, child after child, after child, no formal handshake... no arms length presentation...
In a world where people on a momentary basis hurt each other physically,where the evening news is often horrifying, in a world where teachers and professionals of all types have been relegated to sterile distance, thank you, Lord in Heaven above, for a program where children are touched and hugged and physically cheered on, encouraged and connected with, their mentors and teachers and each other.
For growth to occur and for love to connect, we must touch each other. Plain and simple, there is no alternative to it. Hand to hand, arms encircling, head to shoulder, cheek to cheek, toe to toe in a circle on the floor. Family, in whatever form it takes, must touch each other.
There were awards. And it's nice to be recognized for hard work and consistency and excellence.
It's nice to be singled out or honored as a part of a team.
Very important... this business of positive reinforcement... very important.
Of equal importance is continuity. Show them what it takes to earn those awards. And give them the opportunities to earn them for themselves. Exact excellence... help them to get there for themselves.
A significant part of the banquet, especially for those who come next, is finding out who the officers and drum major will be for next year's marching season.
He made them stand, to wait for the call...
Tense and beautiful... a learning moment if ever there was one.
And there they are... the future of the program ,,, leaders every one, charged to work together, for the betterment of the program and charged with uplifting each and every member, as they, themselves have been helped to achieve. A better life lesson in teamwork they will never encounter, regardless of how long they live or what they choose to do in life.
Look at their smiles... eager anticipation for the future, but in the moment, excitement and happiness. A couple of them were missing... not rounded up in the fray of 'after ceremony' crush of hugs and tears. They are included, if not in a snapshot of the moment, in the year that follows this one.
And speaking of the future... these two are among the graduates... and it puts that ache in my throat to see this photo. CJ's father and I went to high school together. We go WAY back. And as little 6th graders, these two found the drumsticks and the snare drum, and all the rest of the percussion equipment too tempting to resist. And side by side, they have daily beat their way through a thousand pairs of sticks at least. I have a photo of them as 'band babies' and they were both wearing the child size uniforms... but those faces,,, those same exact smiles... and those arms around each other...
... that's all that I can say about that.
The future of the drum line is safe.... safe and in good hands, literally and figuratively.
The energy and the drive and the sticks were handed over last night. Taariq, there in the middle, steps up to the position of captain and he is so, so ready for it. He'll lead a line that will feel a momentary adjustment without it's seniors and they will all look to him... for that strike of the snare that signals 'go'... for the leadership and the 'push' when they need it and for a calm, steady hand with a group that is known for it's sheer energy and pulse. To the left is a kid that the band lovingly nicknamed LT... little Trent, and yes, he does remind me of Trent in those early days... Oh, the adventures that band can hold, the lessons they learn, the important and life changing things that lies before them.
Last year, began a new tradition of giving the seniors a blanket. Embroidered with the band logo and their name and the number of years that they were in marching band. A beautiful keepsake to take with them, where ever their future takes them, to wrap around them for warmth and comfort, symbolic sign of the family that remains with you when you go. Send them on their way surrounded with that connection, covered with the warmth of their past, to places where they may need that strength... that touch connection... a physical symbol of an inward lifeflow of which they have been a part.
One by one... hand to hand...
standing in a line together... for the last time...
Standing acknowledgement of their peers for that moment...
Thank you to a school district and administrators who continue to see the importance in Fine Arts Education.
Continue to fight to keep the program and advance it. The world without the music will be a dull place indeed and these children, from every end of the school, need this for them and in them. It takes them places... it fills them with confidence in a way that nothing else does.
Thank you to Hugh, who when Trent was 3 and 4 and 5... tossed him on the band golf cart, let him be the water boy...gave him drum sticks and turned him loose.
Thank you for patience and life lessons and giving each of my three children individual attention and letting them be who they were. Thank you for guidance and friendship and for caring. Thank you for that video tape of Elizabeth's graduation, when I was too ill to be there. I shall never, ever, ever forget it. Thank you for doing all of the above for the children who will never say thank you, and for the parents that you'll never see. You and I both know that you don't do it for the thank you's... you do it because it's the right thing to do. I do appreciate that, more than words can ever say.
Thank you to these beautiful young people, our future in every sense of the word. Thank you for loving each other, for those smiles when I hit the band room door. Thank you for sharing your tears and laughter, your life stories and your future hopes and aspirations. Know that as surely as the sun comes up on the morning, that I pray for you, asking God to guide you and to bless you, to hold you close and let you know that you are loved. I ask for a light for your path and friends to make the way easier.
You know where to find me if ever you need me and there's not one of you, for which I will not answer the call.
A special thanks to Graham, for giving me a gift last night... for putting into actual words a precious thought.
You touched my heart.
Thank you David...
... for calling them children, for they are. Too often they are rushed... call them children and when they act like children, as they sometimes do, give them that moment, instruct them and move on.
...for telling them that you learned from them... for an open sharing of what it's meant to have these particular participants on the beginning of your life's journey as a band director.... for letting them see the human side and the struggle sometimes, but for keeping the 'push' on for excellence, even when the going is rough.
...for that positive "yes?" at the end of your sentences. For the expectation that their answer will be another positive 'yes'... From the first time that I heard it from the tower that first day of band camp, until the last time last night, it will be, in my mind, your trademark stamp on my child's band career and on my heart and soul.
The ladies Rose, Dorothy, Blanche and Sophia (yes, the golden girls!),Chipmunk, Michelle, Eleanor and one who's name escapes me just now will have their photo ops shortly. Edited to add Ahh! The missing name was Hillary, one of the three named after First Ladies...I don't know why I couldn't remember that one!
The girls accidentally joined us, here on the homestead, because I stopped by the feed store at an inopportune time. I was weak, weak, weak willed... I was.
And they peeped and ran around the pens and I thought about how I didn't need any babies just now, but that I needed a new infusion of genes in the chicken coops.
Next thing I know, I have a box of peeping biddies and a bag of chick starter and I'm on my way home.
Baby chickens make me strangely happy... and I obviously shouldn't trust myself to go to the feed store alone for the remainder of the spring.
This year April has been as busy a month as May is, traditionally, for us.
After April, I'm thinking we may have to eat some extra wheaties and vitamins....
However, before April could play her tricks on us, we encountered spring break.
Spring break meant a nice trip to the beach for a few very relaxing days.
Stormy, being inside with me and being my ever present shadow, went with us.
I really enjoyed seeing the beach through her eyes....
and I'll admit to walking about 20 times more than I normally do when we're there.
By the end of the first day, she knew where the other friendly dogs were located on the island and she wanted to walk in that direction.
There was that first encounter with salt water.
and mud flats...
and a speedy little ghost crab, that was snapped up...
then I tossed down the camera....
and for a precarious moment, the crab dangled from her tongue like an awkward piercing, before being safely and unceremoniously deposited back to shore.
No crabs, or dogs were harmed in this encounter.
Several creatures took naps in the sun...
I might have been one of them...
This little fellow, about 6 feet long, was taking in the first warm rays of spring so placidly... very much belying the aggressive feeding machine that he actually is.
Not a great shot, but the first time I've ever encountered while bald eagles nesting, prompting a sudden stop on the roadside and a leap from the car to photograph it.
As the month has worn on (we're just now to the middle of it!), I've taken several occasions to reflect on the days at the shore. Days away from the rush of normal days are so very nice. Having time to walk and reflect, and sometimes do nothing more than follow the pup on the long expanse of beach was quite therapeutic.
I resolve to do that more often.
Yesterday morning, I got up at 5:30 and hit the floor going fast and furious.
I'd prepared for nearly a week for the day ahead and was excited and looked forward to it.
When everything was said and done, I walked back through my door this morning at 4:45...
... 45 minutes short of a 24 hour day.
Phew... AND right this moment, I feel like I've been run over by the proverbial band bus.
But here's what happened over the course of that day.
Carolina Indoor Percussion Association Championships were held yesterday in Cullowhee, North Carolina on the campus of Western Carolina University. My boy is part of an indoor percussion group that competes in this division. Not only does my boy compete, but 22 other children whom I love nearly as much as my own are a part of this effort.
Moving a percussion ensemble some 2 1/2 hours from home, to spend the day and compete is no small feat.
It involves charter buses and moving trucks, logistics enough to move a small army (which ironically, is exactly what it looked like we were doing). The details for making the day run smoothly must be pre-thought and then put into motion by the kids themselves and their attending instructors and parents.
Two professional music instructors gave so much time and attention to the kids this season. From early days of planning , to constant instruction, hours of 'after hours' practice, to intense devotion to the emotional aspects of competing and 'winning' very little was left undone. Our instructors are young and learning themselves, but deeply devoted and very invested in the welfare and growth of my child and the others. To take 23 individual teenagers and turn them into a cohesive working unit who all but breathe together, all the while performing music and moving in a synchronized fashion still, even after 14 years of being a band parent, takes my breath away. To tell a story while doing it, is even more impressive. To not rip your hair out when days and nights are long, when the kids don't understand or are mischievous or wild, speaks volumes to the skill set and maturity level of our young instructors.
I will say that while the parent team yesterday was small, it was as well 'oiled' a machine of parent support as I have ever worked with. We each fell to work in our self assigned tasks, would drop our task and help where needed and except for a wee amount of complaining about the occasional physical discomfort, every parent face that I saw was nearly always smiling. Those that weren't smiling were very intent on the task at hand or on the face of a child. We dealt with small emergencies and larger ones. A grandmother jumped in to help transport our bus driver to a hotel, in order to meet the requirements of the law about numbers of hours worked for bus drivers. I'm not sure what we'd have done without her. By her stepping in and taking him, we were able to keep the charter bus as our 'camp' or our home away from home for the day, which added immeasurably to our comfort and safety. A pair of parents drove the massive truck, after loading it with equipment and followed us back down the mountain in the middle of the night, keeping thousands of dollars of equipment safe and sound and right where we needed it. Myself and another mom did just that... we managed the kids, their Maslow needs and kept things running and organized.
Not to say at all that this was entirely work.. for it was not. There were silly lighthearted moments...There was that fun description that I gave about how to use a moving toilet... There were some brief moments where kids and adults broke forth in song, from Gospel to opera and everything in between, when you realized why we were band people and not a choral group.
There were hugs and tears and hand holding.
There were band-aids and ice packs and barf bags.
There were sunshine and wind, peanut butter sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
There was the rivalry and the camaraderie and the nerves.
There was tension and jitters and practice and lectures and more practice.
The first business at hand was warm-ups, in a brisk 45 mile per hour wind, which whipped up dust devils into our eyes and made the progress much harder. There were pink noses and cheeks from the sun and bumps and bruises from moving equipment. Because we were short of help, there were 5 or 6 students from the university who adopted us for the day and pitched in on every hands front, going WAY above and beyond the call of duty and reminding me again, that there are so many good people willing to lend a helping hand, just when you need it most.
There was a tense wait, in the tunnel leading to the arena.
And then there were drums... and other instruments to be sure.
At the end of the performance, our kids left the arena with a very unsettled feeling. I, myself, couldn't lay my hands or mind on exactly what was going on. It's interesting to watch... you could read their body language... they'd done what they could do, and almost without exception, they felt that they hadn't done enough.
There was tears from the youngest and from the oldest, who had just performed their final competitive act.
There was love apparent, on every front, in every eye and every breathable touchable moment.
They reached out to each other... they revealed themselves to be deep and precious human beings, so very connected to each other, a band of brothers and sisters in every sense of the word, connected beyond the color of their skin, their ages and all the life experiences they bring.
They came in 5th. A very respectable showing.
Putting aside anything they earned from CIPA, they came in first in my heart and soul and made me so very glad to have been along for the ride.
What comes next can, in no way, thank each and every person who helped and was a part of the day. These are the ones that come to my very tired mind today. I do appreciate every part played and every thing that everyone did to make the day a success.
To the beautiful children of the Indoor Percussion group, thank you for loving my boy and each other.
Thank you for loving me, for always being respectful and the most delightful kids in the world to work for and with. Always remember in the 'game' of life to stay connected to each other and to work hard and give it your best. This will take you far in life and give you a better life than you can begin to imagine.
To Paisha, Dan, Tyler, CJ and Trent, our seniors, thank you for years of leadership and experience, hard work and flat out sticking to it in a world where it's far easier to quit and take the easy way out. I can hardly wait to see where your life's journeys lead you. I expect you to keep in touch with me and I expect great things!
To Nana, Bop,Chris, Will and Laney - Thank you for driving hundreds of miles during this season and being an enthusiastic cheering section for not just Trent, but for our band. Thank you for feeding him and encouraging him. Laney, thank you for being a classy little lady, well beyond your age in maturity. I do adore you.
To Ms Mary... thank you for driving all over the mountains so that the bus driver could drive safely and jumping in and taking that worry away. Thank you for last minute phone calls, for an emergency shopping trip and going way above the call of duty.
To Al and Debbie and Michelle, from the bottom of my heart, and my very tired toes, thank you for your undying devotion and endless backbreaking work, for being up at all hours and staying focused on what we all know is both an important task and one that, in the grand scheme of things is actually pretty short in duration. Thank you for walking a million miles, for feeding them from boxes and bags, for cajoling and correcting, for hugs and helping wipe tears. Thank you for the laughter and for what you've done for my child. I do appreciate it.
To Carmen... Do not worry about the search for where your life will lead you... the work will teach you.
Whatever it is, I know that you'll be amazing at it. Thank you for loving my boy and being his teacher and his guide on this journey. Thank you for the energy and the knowledge that you brought to Trent's final days in high school band. Thank you for not killing him at times, and for encouraging him always. And not just for Trent but for the other 22 kids as well. Most of these kids are not percussion kids... you've taken a crew of saxophone players and trumpet players and guard girls, flutist and players of pretty much every class of instruments and run percussion through their brains. That's no small feat. May you have gained 1/10th as much as they have learned.
To David...You're right... words to describe what we need to say are hard to find. Perhaps impossible.
At risk of repeating myself, thank you for being there and bringing my boy back to band. Thank you for being his mentor and teacher and friend. Thank you for the silly moments and the serious ones, for loving each and every kid and working so hard to help them succeed. These first two years of the career that you are so obvious suited for have certainly been a challenge. A learning and growing experience should not be easy and it should push you to the limit of what you can do. I think we've succeeding in doing that.
Sometimes when words fail, a picture is worth a thousand words. When I uploaded the photos from my camera, I was pleased to find a photo, in which if you look closely, you can see the children reflected in the lens of your glasses. How very appropriate... the band through your eyes... Thank you for your vision, in every sense of the word. Thank you for returning the music to my boy and to me.
Thank you to Tommy, who pretty much never complains... who comes home to an empty house for seasons at a time, washes the dishes, deals with the dogs and every domestic emergency and supports this effort financially, making it possible for both Trent and for me.
And finally, to Trent... my baby boy... in whose eyes I can see the future. Take the lessons that band has taught you and move on to the edge. As you step boldly from your childhood into all that comes next, know that your mother loves you. I have enjoyed every single moment. May the rhythm of your drums and of the heartbeat of our home tide you over when life is tough.
Fly strong and free from our home into your future, always knowing that the road leads back to home.