Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What it takes

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
A box of lefts, left flank, into a box of rights, right flank, into a box of right 270 spin turns... I stared across the parched grass as I visualized the drill. Furrowing my eyebrows, I began to march with a running checklist in my head: horn perfectly straight, legs up, toes pointed, shoulders back, eyes forward, don't tilt my head before the flank, don't dip my horn after the flash...

I'd been working for this for over two years now. Ever since I'd been lucky enough to stand mere feet away from The Ohio State University Marching Band's majestic rendition of the Navy Hymn on the floor of Skull Session, I had to wear those crossbelts and spats someday, gripping a spotless horn with military precision. It didn't matter that I'd have to master a brass instrument in just a few years. It didn't matter that I'd never excelled at anything requiring the least bit of physical coordination. I already loved my high school marching band experience, and I knew, without a doubt, that this would be my niche in college. I was going to be in that band.

The one time my mom had made me ask my high school band director a question, I'd put it off for days. So when I actually mustered the courage to initiate a conversation with the man who petrified me to the point that I only wore white and gray shirts during marching band season (because who wants to be pointed out as "the flute in the red shirt" through a bullhorn?!), my parents knew I was serious.

I'd only ever practiced my flute enough to get by, but I worked tirelessly between my weekly private lessons to learn the mellophone. To the amusement of current veteran band members, I showed up a year early at the band's optional summer marching clinics, practically bouncing with excitement. After that whole extra summer practicing my horn flashes over and over on local school football fields, I could finally do them fluidly and quickly. Now, I loved the surge of power I felt each time I threw my head back and slammed my horn back down, returning it to its precise straight position in milliseconds.

My time was finally here, and I was ready. At the end of the summer, I would finally have the chance to make my dream come true.

Every morning, I went to my high school marching band field to march. For two hours, I made up simple and complex drills, practicing every fundamental in order. In-place movements, flanks, step-kicks and swaggers. Sloopy, Ramp, and school songs up and down the field. Two hours every day of discipline, precision, and intense concentration. Days of summer sun beating down on dry grass and well-worn yardline ruts. Weeks of pretending not to notice the curious eyes of passing pedestrians and honking motorists. Months of sweat pouring down every inch of my persistent body.

Hours, days, weeks, and months of courage and tenacity: that's what it took to put on those crossbelts for five years of glorious autumn Saturdays. And for five years, reality far surpassed that long-ago dream.
My 5th year. As Squad Leader of my row, I'm on this end.

(Our class motto this year is "Be your best self!" My students have been writing stories recalling when they've been their best selves, and this was the story I wrote alongside them. They'd love your comments too!)