Sometimes you can go back.

But why, you might ask, why would I want to go back to this:

I'm with the bandI’m 17. I’m with the band.

This photo (no shocker that it was my entry into Edenland’s Dork Olympics many years ago) was taken one autumn during my high school years. I was a proud member of the marching band, we of the ridiculously hot and unfashionable uniforms and the furry hats designed by Coneheads from France. I played the piccolo — it was the lightest instrument of all and you could always hear my part. I was a squad captain and a serial dater* of members of the drum section. Band was my social group. Yes, we were super-nerds, but we were super-nerds together.

My high school is now in its 50th year, and to celebrate, the current marching band director invited all band alumnae to play last week at the Homecoming game under the Friday night lights.

It was cold, drizzly and miserable — a 40 degree drop from the temperatures the day before. I almost didn’t go. Would I know anyone? Would I recognize anyone? Could I still play? Would the whole thing bore my children?

Luckily, come Friday afternoon my friend DeDe, a flautist, made me hold up my earlier  invitation that we go together. I no longer had a stylin’ hat but I still had my piccolo, my mad Star Spangled Anthem skillz, and a love of wearing the purple. Roger and Reed enjoyed the football game and Tessa enjoyed hanging out with the high school teenagers who were warm and welcoming to we old-timers.

Our friend and brass player Ralph joined for this photo, taken by Tessa.

Homecoming with the marching band

Longtime readers know I like to time travel. And as I played the school fight song and closed my eyes, I was in two places at once. I was a fresh-faced 17 year-old who hadn’t dealt with any real tribulation (but who considered an ill-placed zit a MAJOR TRAGEDY!) and who was chomping at the bit for independence, yet fearing it. I was also a middle-aged mom breathing in the cold night air and giving thanks for the paths my life had taken.

I looked at the current generation of marching band members — fresh-faced kids — and could see that they were in for many of the experiences that people in my class had faced since we were last high-stepping on the field. Some would find satisfying careers and some would be stunted job-wise. Some would age well and others not so much. Some would face loss, cancer, widdowhood, tragedy, sadness, and death. Some would revel in children, grandchildren, accomplishments and triumph. Their paths would be a curious combination of luck and effort, of making things happen and of letting things happen.

Just like mine has been. And continues to be.

* By “dater” I  mean that I had a crush on one drummer or another, mostly unrequited.

30 thoughts on “Homecoming”

  1. I’m kinda bummed more people from our class didn’t make it… including me. Timing wasn’t right. Maybe we can try again for the 75th!!!! 🙂

  2. What great visuals Lori! Now, I know three new things about my friend. 1. She played the piccolo in her high school band. I don’t think I could pick out the particular sound it makes in a song, but now you got me curious 🙂 2. Serial-Dater of Drum Members 3. And you had your own clique of HS Super Nerds

    Fun post to read!

  3. I love this post. It brought back so many memories of high school, marching band, hot uniforms, white shoes with purple soles, and Q-tip hats.

    I still tell my kids that AWHS is the best high school in the state. Now that they are in high school, they disagree with me (on this subject and on many others :). I am so glad you went that night, even though it was cold. And I loved your time-traveling description. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  4. I too was a “Band Geek”. Our uniforms were equally dorky in a “Police Captain” kind of way. I played the flute but could not tolerate the annoying femaleness of the flute section so I played Bassoon during concert season (thank god). Yes, your hat were ugly, but everything from the 70s is ..dont’ you think (of course, our band still wears the same uniforms..so??)

  5. I love that photo Lori!! The marching band at my high school was just starting to be revived when I was 17 yrs old, so I didn’t participate. But I had many good friends who did and I was an active member on the pep band during that time.

    I love the description of you being in two places at once. Remember all the cares and worries of your 17-yr-old self while being aware of the Lori of today. There are days I wonder what I would tell my younger self if I had the chance. But then there are moments where i don’t want to, because despite the heartache I live in now I know that all of this (the good and the bad) is my life.

    Thanks for the time warp.

  6. My man played sax in the marching band in high school and at Cal. And band tailgates are where we met so I have a special place in my heart for marching bands. They seem to be a great place for life long friendships to thrive. I love the picture. Thanks for posting!

  7. I have continued to go back to all my high school reunions. However, there is a drop in attendance each time, so it seems many others give up on returning. I love catching up with everyone, allthough since Facebook, there is less of a need.

  8. I felt I should “chime in” since I am the floutist mentioned above and in some small way I bear responsibility for our freezing in the drizzle. (I did escape to the percussion section when the flute section got to me, hence the chiming.)

    The lovely thing about time, is that so many things don’t change. You’re still you, I’m still me, Ralph is still Ralph. The kids in the band are still the most kind and generous teenagers you are likely to meet. I hope we were so gracious. Even though today’s band uniforms are light years ahead of ours, style-wise, they are still not very cool. And the music is still in my head!

    Here’s to High School Super Nerds everywhere!

  9. What a great trip down memory lane! Thanks for sharing.
    A good friend of mine, we met after college, was in the marching band in college. We went to a football game and she was aghast when the band members took off their jackets while sitting in the bleachers. Evidently that was not done in the 70’s!

  10. What a fun post! A few years ago my niece, a 2nd generation high school marching band member, was invited back along with other band members past and present, to participate in her hometown’s bicentennial celebration. Her daughters saw how much fun she had, and I’m proud to say, they are now 3rd generation marching band members! They all boast about how much fun they have at band camp!

  11. I love that you got to have that experience; that you also stepped up and grabbed that experience. And for what it’s worth, I absolutely adore the picture of you from high school.

  12. We are totally on the same wavelength where homecoming is concerned. While years have passed I can see (still) the child-like innocence and earnestness from your high school photo radiating within you today…

  13. Loved that you shared this! You took me back with you. I was never in the band, but my brother was. He was the first-chair saxophone player and a serial dater of the pom and cheer squad. For realz. I was always jealous of the commaradery the band shared. I’m sure those were some fun years for you and I’m glad you got to relive them! And with your family too!

  14. Lori, I was part of the band geek crowd in h.s. too – didn’t play, can’t read a lick of music, but I was on the drillteam/kickline and had many a crush on certain bandmates, a trumpet player and drummers and I loved the cadence! I just went back for my 30th reunion and the band is still impressive. Our motto: The Best Damn Band in the Land. I married a band geek, from a different school, and his h.s. in AZ just celebrated the same milestone (50 yrs) with the same concept but he didn’t get to go back to play his trombone. Work, silly, work. Maybe another homecoming game ~

  15. I was a serial dater* of the sax section. Just so happened, I actually dated a few members of the ROTC drill team. I went to every single home football game even though we only one 1 game the entire 4 years I was there. I wanted to be in the band so bad that I joined several plays the drama team produced that needed a musical section (Lil Abner and Fame). There wasn’t exactly a section in the matching band for viola. We didn’t wear q-tips but did have to submit to having to make a black satin dress as chosen by orchestra director. Puffy sleeves and a chin-instrument don’t go well together. Thanks for the flash back.

  16. We did not have homecoming at my high school on the Canadian Prairies in the 1970s, & the band program was fairly new… we marched now & then (& generally hated it) when we were begged to appear in local parades, but we were definitely NOT a marching band per se, we were better (well, at least comparatively speaking, lol) as a concert band. My mother insisted that both my sister & I take music & join the band; she played clarinet in her own Minnesota high school and said it was the best time of ther life… and much as the teenage rebel in me hated to admit it at first, it was the best part of my high school years too. : ) I played alto saxophone. I was the only girl saxophonist almost until the very end of my band career. I like to say I was Lisa Simpson before there was Lisa Simpson (except Lisa can play a heck of a lot better than I ever could, lol).

    I love that you had a band reunion! Kind of made me think of the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus (which always has me bawling).

  17. We had an alumni marching band in college … I always thought they were fabulous. And my college chorus invited alumnae back each year to sing … there was something magical about that experience. Because your friend is right; we are still ourselves … and not. Love the picture of you here. Thanks for taking us on this trip!

  18. Did you go to band camp too?! “This one time at band camp…”

    But seriously, I really enjoyed this post and especially your reflections of being in two places at once standing on that field and thinking about the current band members lives before them and what might or might not happen along the way.

    Your then and now photos are fun too!

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