Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January 1 Memories

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived with her big brother and her parents in a big house with one black and white TV. When she was six years old, she adored her much-older brother who was in his high school band. He played trombone, which was fun to watch. That Christmas, her parents took her to the high school where there were lots of big buses parked near the band room. She watched as all her brother's friends loaded the buses with their instruments and suitcases and uniform hangers and hat boxes and other things she didn't recognize. Then all the big kids closed the luggage doors and hugged their moms and dads and sisters and brothers and got on the buses and left. It was dark and cold when the little girl and her parents got back in the car. They drove home and had dinner and watched something on their brand-new color TV that Santa had left that day.

Six days later, the little girl's mommy tucked her into bed and reminded her to be up early to welcome in the new year: 1971. And there was something about her big brother being on TV, but the little girl didn't understand that part.

The next morning at 8:00 everyone sat down in front of the TV to watch a parade. The little girl got bored kind of fast: it was all bands and flower-covered floats. She checked back in when there were horses, though! Finally, her parents insisted she come over to the TV because her brother was on. There were a bunch of people dressed like her brother in the same band uniform. It was impossible to tell for sure, but the trombones were first in line, so one of those people was her brother. Everyone was excited, and then they showed a man on TV--it was my brother's band director! It was so exciting to see someone I knew (sort of) on TV!

Fast forward eight years. The little girl was growing up and already a teenager. She played the flute--mostly because it was lighter-weight than any of the brass instruments. She was excited and nervous about high school, and then she heard a rumor that the high school band might be going back to Pasadena in the next few years. What!? While she was still in junior high school there was a meeting in the high school auditorium where she could look around at all the older musicians and get more nervous about high school. The meeting was about working hard to earn the money to pay for the trip, which would happen in about a year later.

So, the girl's first semester at high school was filled with new things all around her, the majority of which centered on endless hard lessons about marching: marching in straight lines (no problem, did that in junior high), marching in turns (ditto), marching on the football field, marching to hash marks and in double-time and half-time, marching with instrument up, standing at ease for lengthy periods of time, marching, marching, marching. One Saturday in November, the entire band (including rifles and flags) took school buses to a former Air Force base where they marched for five hours in the cold, marching up and down runways. They practiced the oddball street corner where the parade makes an acute (over 90-degree) turn in front of the TV cameras. They practiced the songs, the cadences, the sheer difficulty of marching nearly 6 miles without a break. Even a flute is hard to hold horizontal after that long. And the wind and cold made everything harder.

A few days after Christmas, the mommy and daddy--big brother didn't live at home anymore--took the girl to the same spot at the high school where there were several school buses to load with instruments, suitcases, uniform hangers and hat boxes and other things she recognized from practices. All of those high school kids hugged their moms and dads and sisters and brothers and got on the buses with the same band director and went to the airport. There were over 200 people representing the school on that airplane, and by the time it landed, everyone who wasn't part of that group promised they'd watch for that band during the parade.

Once the students recovered all their things, they boarded big fancy buses that took them to the UCLA campus where they stayed in the dorms. They took their instruments to a nearby field and practiced their songs and their field show several times. The next day they got up and rehearsed for a few hours and then marched at Disneyland and then got to stayed for the rides and shows. The next day was almost the same, except this time after rehearsing in the morning they went to Knott's Berry Farm to march, and then stayed in the park till closing. The next day they only rehearsed a little, and then went to the Pasadena City Hall where they had been invited to perform their field show, one of only a dozen bands in the parade who achieved that honor because of all the awards they had won that fall in tournaments. After the performance, the band took a tour of all the floats while people frantically worked to finish them before they were judged.

All the students were sent to bed very early that night with orders to sleep hard and long. They were awakened at about 4:30 a.m. on January 1, 1980, for breakfast, after which they dressed in their uniforms and loaded gear onto the big buses. By 6:30, they were lined up in pre-parade formation all the other bands and parade units. Lots of people were very nervous--one girl threw up in a bag on the way to the staging grounds, one boy had the flu and a fever over 100--but at least it was a perfect temperature and not windy at all. At 7 a.m., the first units began to move out. Soon the girl and her band were on the street getting warmed up by the cadences and few runs through their street tunes. Then, rather suddenly, the bad was in front of the big stands of hundreds of people on either side of the street, preparing to make that horribly odd corner, playing their hearts out. They knew they were on TV and they knew people were watching so they played their best, made an excellent turn, and then really kicked into first gear with Barnum & Bailey's Favorite. Because the girl was on the end of her line, she could hear comments as she played and marched, and people were saying amazingly good things. They were good, they really were!

Five miles later, there were still people cheering along the route, though it was more like a parade at home: people in lawn chairs, people who brought out orange slices and water bottles for people who were in need of perking up. Those people got the same show from us--hard as it was to hold up the instruments by then--as the TV cameras did. Then, finally, the band was in the park at the end of the parade, stripping off uniforms, packing up instruments, being given box lunches and drinks, wiping sweat from everywhere, flapping arms that had started to seize up from being in the same positions for too long, and laughing. They had made it, all of them: the girl who threw up from nerves, the sick boy, the out-of-shape kids, the flaky ones. They had all made it to the end!

That afternoon the band members had a choice: go to Santa Monica beach to see the ocean, or stay at the dorm and sleep. The next day, the girl and her band flew home where life would seem boring for long time.

1 thing(s) to say:

Kwizgiver said...

I bet life seemed boring for a long while!

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