Do you remember just "having" to have something and then as soon as you acquired it, you decided it wasn't so great after all? Whether it was a boyfriend, a new pair of shoes or some other "gotta have it now" item, the lesson is a hard one to forget. Well, that's what happened to me in the seventh grade when I decided that I MUST be in the Junior High Band.
Now, anyone who knew me could have told you this was an idea waiting to fail. My parents, first and foremost, tried to change my mind. They put me off as long as possible, but I was relentless in my pursuit of making music my lifelong career. So after several weeks, they said "Ok."
Both of my father's parents were musicians and very good ones at that. I guess my father was hoping that maybe I had inherited that musical gene. I was hoping that I would be the most accomplished musician in the US, heck, maybe the world. In my mind's eye, I saw it all...the fame, the fortune, the ability to bring down the house. So nothing would deter me from signing up and being the greatest flautist in the county. Ah, yes, the beautiful gleaming silver flute. The perfect instrument for the pre-teen girl with all the great dreams!
My father arrived home from work and in he walked with a strangely shaped large leather case. We all gathered in anticipation of what he had in that case. His presentation went something like this..."Now you all know that your sister, Angela will be in the beginner's band. We want to support her and make sure that she practices and does her very best to realize this dream. So tonight I'd like to present her with her first musical instrument!" "Hmmmm, mighty big case for such a small instrument like a flute," I thought. When he opened that case I nearly dropped dead...not from excitement, I must add. Lying there, in all its satin-lined case glory was a curvy old instrument that looked like a pipe. "What in the world is that thing?" I inquired. "Why, it's my first alto saxophone! I thought you'd be a perfect match for it! I'm handing it down to you."
You know, I don't like to sound ungrateful, but a saxophone roughly the same height as me was not exactly what I had in mind. I smiled weakly. "Try it out! Try it out!" my brother and sister shouted. "Certainly," my father said," here let me help you." He brought the thing out and then reached in and pulled out a mouthpiece, a reed and a neckstrap. "You have to put it together?" I questioned. He snapped everything together, put the strap around my neck and for the next 30 minutes I almost blew my brains out trying to make a sound emit from the curvy beast.
I dutifully lugged that case to band every day..."Oh, I spoke to Mr. Mitchell today. He said you had real promise," said my proud father. (Promise? promise of what?) That sax squawked like a goose having his last honk before being plucked every time I tried to play it. I sat in band and glared at the flute and clarinet players..(Greer played the clarinet but I got the 500 pound old saxophone!) I didn't like biting down on the mouthpiece so I'd put my lip between the mouthpiece and my teeth. After an hour or so my lip was permanently indented and I looked like an adolescent who had upper lip implants.
To make a long story bearable, our big day arrived. We got to march in the Greenwood Christmas parade. Mr. and Mrs. B took Greer and me to Greenwood and rented a hotel room for the day. We were decked out in 100% wool uniforms and those hats with the plumes....Oh, my gosh. We were to play Jingle Bells and did we ever....for about 20 miles it seemed. By the time we rounded the corner to the main street area, I was sweating, panting (from lack of oxygen) and barely able to walk, much less toot that darn horn. My musical career came to a screeching halt that day in the delta sun.
To this day, I have trouble holding my head up straight (and of course, that's due to the stress that was put on my neck.) A small (but sturdy) young woman has NO business being forced to strap on a forty pound weight on her small neck. Gone were the dreams of playing lovely songs onstage with the Philharmonic...a gauzy musical nymph leaping about with the gleaming silver flute. But I did learn something very valuable through that experience, sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. However, when you get to the other side, you will find that they just used more fertilizer.