Family, School

slowly coming home

My weekends are filled with music.  Literally.

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The thought dawns on me as I sit in sprinkling mist late Saturday eve.  I am watching the conclusion of a high school field tournament competition as parents huddle beneath umbrellas and hastily cover cameras and cell phones.  I laugh out loud at my youngest as he exposes his face to the rain, tongue sticking out.

I have spent a lot of my life in football stadiums.  It feels like my second home.

The hubs comes upstairs to sit beside me as my fingers fly across my keyboard.   He and our youngest have just completed watching the movie Up! and he is teary.    The movie opens with a portrayal of Mr. Fredrickson’s childhood, how he meets his wife and the progression of his marriage.   His home.  It is everything.

A home symbolizes many things.  Stability.  Success.  Family.  Most people characterize it as a building with four walls but that isn’t always true.  The adage, “home is where the heart is” comes to mind.  But still, most people associate the word home with a house, lawn and white picket fence.  The movie Up! hits the hubs hard.  He wants our home to be what I long for it to be.  The one with the new floors.

For the longest time I was devoid of memories from the ages of twelve through eighteen; filed into my subconscious and oblivion.  When I sit amongst my childhood girlfriends I do not recollect the memories as they do; myself actively in them.  I have come to the realization that I chose to forget them; the painful years of growing into my own skin and longing for guidance.  These were the years my mother’s energy was spent caring for my father in his late stages of colon cancer; the dutiful daughter forgotten.

It is only as I sit in the stands that my internal video of those years plays back; triggered by the sights and sounds of my own tween and teenager.   The years that I sat amidst the risers finishing homework before another game.   I had the rare opportunity of being both in our high school band program and being a songleader.   Both activities spend a lot of time in stadiums.   My hours were filled with these activities and they were welcome.  It took away from the feeling of isolation I felt within the silent walls of my own childhood home.

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Each weekend as we watched our high school perform their field show my eyes teared during the second movement.  The balance of chords were poignant as the ensemble crescendo-ed to a climax.  It was only when the son made reference to the original song that it clicked; after twelve weeks of hearing it.  I had felt an affinity to Tori Amos’ song back in college and would always think of my father.

Some of my favorite memories from college revolved around my four years of involvement in marching band.   Last month, sitting in the Coliseum, those memories washed over me as my sons raptly watched the drills and formations during pre-game and half-time.  And so it now begins anew; full circle.  Who knew?

It’s like coming home.

As a young mom it was imperative that my children not be afraid of the water and when they were infants, I joined YMCA aquatic Mommy and Me programs.  Soon my boys were on swim teams and I hoped this skill would take them through high school.  But swimming, for them, was for recreation; not competition.  It was the same for track and golf.  At the same time I had fostered an appreciation for music; beginning with piano lessons.  That, too, fell by the wayside when we made our last military transition move to our current home.   When my boys showed interest in band I did not push.  I was focused on sports and teams; surrounded by tiger moms thinking of NCAA collegiate swim scholarships.  It was all about being the best.  The fastest.  Band was for fun.

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And it was this that survived…the love for music.  Occasionally when I run into the swim tiger moms they share their children’s j.o. times and the battle of making their kids stay in the pool.  It is sheer will and determination to get into the pool at 5:30 AM every morning and I applaud the ones that really want it.   When these moms ask how my sons are I tell them they no longer swim and chose to be in band.  I usually get a subdued response, if not outright dismissal, and a command to make my boys get back into the pool.

It is only when they find what they truly love that they will do their best and find fulfillment.

I learned the hard way.  The kids have to want it; just as I did at their ages.  The band kids log in the hours and it shows; this ensemble ranked nationwide.  But it is not the accolades that fill our hearts with pride.  It is the message of Humility taught to these teens.  Respect.  Community.  When our local competitor was given a blow during competition our students were sensitive and offered encouragement; our buses parked alongside.  It is easy for parents to beam with pride and high-five; it is another to humbly be grateful and considerate.

This is the lesson I continue to learn; to drive home.  Humble gratefulness for the things I have.

It is on Sundays, while sitting in pews, that I have the time to process our jam-packed fall schedule in my other home.   It is All Soul’s Day and the church is packed.  I always feel a sense of community; seeing the same faces and families for an hour, week-after-week.  I often ponder what goes on in their homes.  It is this recurring theme that has preoccupied me in my adult years.  With the constant transitions as a military spouse I wondered what happened in the “normal” four walls of a stable home.

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It was the above book, the first chosen by a former neighbor for her newly founded bookclub, that brought reading back into my life.  The book centers upon neighbors on a street who start a bookclub.   It is about women who are isolated within their own lives and homes; seeking meaningful relationships.    The book paralleled our lives and the twelve women in that first reading discussion group embraced it.  Three years later I moved away.

It was when my children went to school in my current community that I began to meet new people.  The neighbor, two doors down, who had been pregnant at the same time, and I finally crossed paths.  Soon after came a third neighbor whose daughter was the same age as our sons.  When our kids were in first grade, our Halloween block party was born.

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This holiday is not one of my favorites.  As a young child I was instructed to turn off all the lights and to stay in my room.  Some Hallow’s eves there would be eggs thrown at our front door and only once did I venture out at a friend’s insistence.

But my two neighbors enjoy celebrating this day and I found myself trailing over fifty plus kids as they trick-or-treat for candy.  The kids’ bags don’t get very full (I always feel bad when a home opens its doors to find our fifty plus group of kids along their entryway) but it is the sense of community and fellowship that makes this block party a success; both amongst the kids as well as the adults.  When the rain came pouring down at 10 PM my neighbors and I stood beneath her garage awning tiredly laughing about things past and present.

I am happy that my children can have these experiences; opportunities never presented in my childhood.

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The youngest, Dapper Death, at his serpentine parade.

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The middle son, with his friend, before a junior high Halloween dance.

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The high school trunk-or-treat for 220 band and color guard members.

My home continues to be my sanctuary; the place I call my own.  It is safe.  Amongst the clatter and loud noise I do find peace.  And the music continues to play.  On my PC and ear buds plugged into iPods.  Performed on musical instruments.  Hummed amidst our daily activities of living. Played loud in football stadiums,  Sung weekly in church choirs.  And on repeat on my car stereo during my weekday commute.

Music is the constant in my life.  Music is what brings me home.  It is not the home with four walls and cracked tile (though I continually lament this).  It is what pulses in our hearts; what runs in our blood.

A house is not a home if music does not reside there. 

It doesn’t have to be loud.  It is our stories brought to life; the songs that resonate within.   It can be a silent melody that sings within your veins; the pulse that makes you continue to put one foot in front of the other on our life’s walk.

Find your music and sing it loud and clear.

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