I believe I have mentioned that I have had occasion to work with the band at the high school I attended more than twenty years ago, now. I had a good time of it, and I had had plans to do more work with that band in the spring session now ended–but closures due to COVID-19 quashed them. There are plans to resume in the fall, and there is some hope that those plans will be able to go forward, though I have to keep in mind that a resurgent virus might quash them as it did the spring plans.
Being put in mind of that work, however, I was also put in mind of my experience as a member of the high school band–something I have noted was among the very few good parts of high school for me. (I acknowledge that much of the bad was my own damned fault; I might’ve had it coming, but that doesn’t mean it was pleasant.) As a bandsman, I took part in any number of quirky little rituals, practices that were expected of people when I joined up and which I passed forward without actually thinking about them. Of course, as I have noted, I am prone to superstition and ritual, so it was not a difficult thing for me to fall into that part of the group’s culture.
One such ritual that reminded me of itself was that of putting money into our marching shoes before marching contests. I remember drum majors going up and down the lines of band nerds in their uniforms with bags of coins, giving one to each of us–usually pennies, but occasionally nickels or higher, especially if we were at a more important contest. Ostensibly, it was for luck, borrowing from the tradition at weddings (that I am not sure my wife followed at ours). I do not know if it worked, of course; there were some contests at which the band I was part of failed miserably, but I do not remember if we had pennies in our shoes then or not. It has been more than twenty years, after all, and I do not think many people remember everything they had in their shoes after twenty weeks or twenty days, let alone twenty years.
I don’t know if the kids in band now still do such things. I know that some of the rituals I did, they do; I have seen them do much the same dismissal drill I used to do, for example. But I also know that some of what we did, they do not; bleacher tunes I inherited seem not to be current with them. And that’s okay; things have to change to improve, and the band I saw last year is far and away better than the one in which I played. (We barely made area once; they made state.) Too, I know that the days of my youth are gone away, never to return; to try to make them do so is folly. Even so, knowing that some things remain helps me feel a bit more connected to the larger world, and knowing that some things do not that at least did no harm…Whitman is right that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” and Donne that none of us is an island, but more than a clod feels as if it might have been washed away.