Sunday, December 11, 2011

Drum roll please...umm nevermind...

Why I capitulated I don't know, but I was in the school band from 5th grade through my senior year. It's not that I don't like music, I do. I'm just not musically inclined, as any of my band instructors or anyone who's heard me try to sing or play music, would likely tell you.

As part of the school band, you had to be in marching band when you got to high school. It was terrible. My mother, who insisted on my and all my sisters' musical participation, routinely forgot to pick me up from the practices and parades. So I'd be there after a practice I didn't want to attend, waiting and waiting and waiting for my mom to look up from her Harlequin Romance and remember to come get me. The instructors, who couldn't go home til all the students were gone, LOVED me.

And the parades. Oh the parades. Initially I was in the clarinet section. My sisters, in order, had played the clarinet, trumpet, trombone and flute. Last in line, I was awarded the vintage, recycled clarinet purchased circa 1965 and left behind my sister Donna who had escaped it upon graduation.

In high school I staged a mighty rebellion and moved to the percussion section. What a bad idea. I'd been beaten with sticks my whole life by various family members, but I'd never actually wielded them myself.

Happily, the snares were occupied, so rather than learn how to execute an actual drum roll, I was paired up first with the bells. Apparently you need to know how to play piano to understand the layout of the bells. I tended to flail around making noise.

So it wasn't long before I was paired up with the bass. This is a fine and noble instrument. It's the heartbeat of the music; it's a beacon to the other instruments, sounding out the pace of the work. Well, that's the idea, I'm told.

For parades, nearly all of them carried out during the height of Indiana summer, the marching band was swaddled in wool uniforms and hats that looked like six sheep died to provide each towering Marge Simpson design.

The bass drum is roughly the size and weight of a tractor tire. It's carried in a metal Baby Bjorn on the bassists' chest. It might surprise you to know that I was no taller in high school than I am now.

That frickin' bass drum took on the proportions of a blue whale. It was wider than I was tall and I had to tote down the street. In front of people. While keeping step and remembering to bang on it every once in a while.

Full disclosure: that photo is of my sisters, Debbie and Nancy, also volunteered by my mother for the Shakamak High School band, but likely better musicians. At some point in my marching career, the school switched to slightly less hideous hats, but when I have flashbacks (parades and other gatherings of big crowds bring them on) I envision this rockin' look.

To this day, I hate parades. And it is on that hatred that I blame my latest discovery of how bad a mother I am.

Alison and her 5th grade class attended A Christmas Carol at the Indiana Repertory Theater this week. On the way, she'd passed by Indianapolis' Monument Circle, which for the past forever is turned into a giant Christmas tree thanks to local IBEW workers and a ton of lights and string.

She was entranced by the giant nutcrackers, candy canes and associated holiday decor. Yep. We've lived her her whole decade of life and I've never taken her to see the "tree" lit up. Not for the ceremony and not after. Why?

1. It's not a tree.
2. It's cold enough in Indiana in December to make you pine for that high school band uniform. (but not the hat; for temperatures cold enough to make you want the hat, you have to go to Antarctica.)
3. The idea of going to the annual tree lighting (attended by thousands religiously; considered a rite of passage for toddlers across Central Indiana) makes me think of going downtown for a parade. Huge crowd. Parking issues. Someone hits the lights. Wahoo. Back to huge crowd. Parking issues. In the cold.
4. Did I mention that it's not a tree?

Anyway, Alison had a dentist appointment downtown on Friday. So Jeff and I carpooled to work, he picked her up and took her to the dentist, then picked me up at work.

We planned to do a little shopping, have dinner downtown and see the "tree" in all its glory. Lucky for us, we were able to bring Ali's friend, Amanda, along. They wore matching minion hats and had their usual good time, oblivious to the cold and soaking in all the holiday fun the city sidewalks had to offer.

I need to take off my Grinch hat and embrace their spirit, I think. I might even have to reconsider my parade phobia. I am not, however, wearing that hat again.

PS: As a 5th grader, Alison is eligible to play in the school band. She has declined and I am not going to make her. Some traditions need to end.

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