I spotted my daughter from thirty yards away. She was standing in a circle with her friends and she was smiling. She didn’t see me yet so I studied her face. Her face is round with high cheekbones and full oval lips. Her eyes are ice blue and they look even bluer when she has her navy marching band uniform on. She’s beautiful. I’m so grateful that she still comes to me for hugs and I cherish her little giggle when she nestles her face between my neck and collarbone. Some days she’s so sweet and we click, yet other days her words sting and we throw daggers at each other. I know my mouth was no picnic to my parents when I was a teenager so I pick my battles.
Finally she looks up and sees me staring at her. She smiles at me. Her smile makes me smile. With her eyes, she motions for me to approach her. I walked over to her and as I’d done many times before, I grasped her white gloved hand. It was always our special moment to grasp hands before she took the field in a marching band competition. I looked into her clear blue eyes. We didn’t have to speak, her eyes told me everything, “Mom I’m scared about this performance and the upcoming change”. My eyes responded, “I know baby. Go out there and play with your heart and it will all fall into place. It’s healthy, you’ll see”. In our hearts, we both knew this was the end. There would never be another day like this. This was the end and it hurt.
Moments later, four chaperone band moms (my friends) and myself, the nurse, escorted this marching band into the University of Maryland Stadium for Regional Championships. We always had such a great sense of pride as parents escorting them into stadiums, supporting this marching band and being in their presence. These musicians, our children played their hearts out.
Season change, people change and believe it or not, so do high school marching bands. Days after this picture was taken at the final competition, it was announced that this marching band would no longer compete through USBANDS. The band directors have decided to march the band in a different direction, literally. Next year they will continue to perform half time shows but they will transform from being a competitive field show band and become a parade band. Most of the band was upset to hear this news. Some cried. Some stormed out of the band room. Some planned on quitting. As for my daughter, her heart has been with that marching band since she was in fifth grade, the year my son began high school and entered that band. She’s a little upset too but her ability to think outside of the box will come in handy when changes are made to this band and I know she’ll go with the flow.
When I asked my daughter if we could take a picture of our hand grasp she agreed immediately, no questions asked. For me, it was a two part reason. The final marching band field show competition and something deeper. As a parent, it’s about finding common threads and establishing bonds with our children during each phase of their lives. It’s about sharing special moments like a hand grasp that they can remember and take with them throughout their lives. It’s about teaching them everything we know about life before they spread their wings and leave the nest. It’s about putting your own needs aside to tend to theirs. It’s about giving them your time. It’s about accepting their coming of age and embracing it.
My daughter started high school two weeks ago. She’d had difficulty falling asleep the night before school started. She said she couldn’t quiet her mind. Deep down inside, I knew what she was thinking: Will I be accepted by my peers? Will I succeed in high school? We all had those worries as teenagers.
My daughter is my extroverted, free spirited child that thinks outside of the box. She always has been. She has a wide variety of friends that I can’t keep track of. Every other week she has a new college major in mind. She can teach our dog to do tricks when none of us have the patience. She figures out algebra and geometry equations in her head without showing her work, which is way over my head. At a young age she’d find complicated ways of moving tiles around the Rummy Cube game just to make one play. When she was 4 1/2 she figured out how to use two game pieces on the same square to block other players from getting around the Parcheesi game board. She’s open to trying new things and she accepts situations in life as they come.
I’ve mentioned before that my kids are band kids. My daughter has played trumpet since fifth grade. She named her trumpet Treena. Midway through her seventh grade year, she began taking lessons with one of the high school band directors. In the spring of her eighth grade year we learned that she had been place in Wind Ensemble as a freshman. Wind Ensemble is the highest level and gifted and talented band class. She was flattered and extremely thankful for the opportunity. My son didn’t get into that class until he was a junior in high school. She’s always the first to admit when she thinks she messed up an audition or a piece of music. Last week, they had seat placement auditions in her class. There are five trumpets. She practiced. She had lessons. Naturally when she said the audition went well I anticipated her earning at least second trumpet music. She came home yesterday and said she’d been given third trumpet music and placed in the last seat. She also said the band director advised them that second and third trumpet music would alternate.
My jaw dropped and my mouth is perpetually hanging open. We don’t put pressure on our kids to achieve certain things but we do expect A’s and B’s. Also, I don’t claim that my daughter is a Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong but I know the girl can hold her own with her trumpet. Inside I’m wondering if the band director thinks my daughter stinks. It bugs me I guess because I did poorly in high school and I’m so proud of my kids because they’ve exceeded our expectations and will not go into college swimming against the current with their heads barely above water like I did.
Really though, third trumpet last seat? Instinctively I confided in one of my band parent friends who has a family music back ground and who’s sons who’d graduated in 2014 and 2015 and were also in that class. I also spoke to my son who graduated this year. Both said seat placement is a complicated matter and there’s reasons musicians are placed in certain seats and just because she’s in the last seat doesn’t mean she stinks. My friend also advised me that if it doesn’t bother her, it shouldn’t bother me. So I asked her if her seat placement bothered her. She said, “it’s just a chair”.
I admire her for that. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff. In her mind she was placed where she was placed and she accepts that. She doesn’t have to know the reason. She just wants to play her trumpet and learn challenging music. I know that her being in that class will not only enhance her trumpet playing skills, it will expand her ability to think outside of the box even more. So I’ll let it go. After all, it is just a chair.