Friday, March 16, 2012

Supporting each other

In the last post, I wrote a little bit about our falling in love.  It's frustrating, that so many of the fairy tales and stories that we read, hear, see on television, etc..., so many stories just stop and handwave "happily ever after."  Because I know that the story continues.  That happiness may continue, but it's not a constant.  Nothing is.  Just because you've found someone, does not mean that everything else will suddenly go right.

Finding Brian was the *start*of something right.  But that didn't mean things were perfect, or that all troubles had ended.  I was only in my first semester of engineering school, at one of the top schools in the country.  I'd like to move on to the second semester for next post... but I don't want to sugar-coat college life.  I struggled with a lot of things, things that I think are not unique to me.

I was living in South Bend when the movie Rudy came out.  Everybody loves a happy ending.  But it is an unfortunate fact of life, that everyone has to choose what is most important to them.  In the things that mattered the most to me, engineering and a career that lived my dream, graduating from college was a triumphant success.

In other things that mattered to me... choosing engineering, and those academic pursuits, had a price.


Band was a huge part of my life at that time.  My first campus job was working for the band, creating a database of band alumni names and addresses.

One of the first shows of the season, the marching band performed "Call Me," with a large rotary telephone formation.  As an alternate, I got to be one of the numbers.  Wait for the right time, run onto the field with the number, hold it up, march eight steps one direction, about face, eight steps in the other direction, exit pressbox side.  All well and good, lots of fun, Hey, I get to march!  Uh... no, it doesn't matter to me what number I get.  Any number is fine.  I can be the zero.

Wait.  "Be the zero" was a thought that led to very dark places where I needed Brian.  Not "be the zero."  I could HOLD the zero.


Band held "challenges" on the first day back to the drill field after a show.  I never had a problem following the drill charts, or learning a band position in the day I was filling a hole.  But following random box drills called out over the speaker system... that was beyond my skill.  Sometimes it was "Box left, then box right."  Sometimes it was "Box right, then box left." Sometimes it was "Eight eights forward, to the rear, eight eights back."  Usually while playing "Hail Purdue," with swagger.  So confusing.

So I spent yet another game holding ladders...  Yes, I could take pride in keeping the ladder steady and the the directors safe.  Yes, the band was doing the right thing, making sure they could put on a good quality show.  It still hurt.


Freshman year, the band was still performing Homecoming concerts.  I was on ladder duty for the show.  This one was a little more complicated, because we had to re-position the ladder during a song.  (Ladder was away from the pressbox, band was all facing pressbox at the time.)  Alternates with medium-sized instruments, stowed them out of the way... under the ladder.  This time, my partner on the ladder was a piccolo-player.  She stowed her instrument in her uniform pocket.  We started to move the ladder.  I tried to turn it to step her around it.  She blindly stepped forward... on my clarinet.  It broke, right across the lower joint, where it meets the upper.

I cried so hard.  Most of the band didn't understand the situation.  I didn't have money to fix it.  My parents didn't have money to fix it.  I did actually have a bit of renter's insurance, but I don't remember the coverage or the deductible.  How was I supposed to play, or practice, without an instrument?

At that time, the Bands still kept clarinets available for check-out in Supply.  It was too late to get one before the game.  So between the fountain concert, and the Homecoming concert we went and borrowed an instrument.  I used it for a couple of weeks, until my instrument was repaired and returned.

In the years since then, the bands stopped carrying the smaller instruments like the clarinets, and started expecting the musicians to provide their own instruments.

Of course I invited my parents to the concert.  They didn't come, and that hurt too.  Nor did they come to any of the three concerts in the spring.  To this day, I struggle to understand.  I know it was a three hour car trip, and that does take gas.  My parents did have two toddlers at home.  But they also had three other adolescents, who could have watched their littler brothers.

In my entire Purdue career, my parents only attended one game, the game where I was one of the seniors recognized.  They didn't even stay to the end, left after halftime. I know a lot of the games were shown on cable, which my parents didn't have.  But even for the network games, I don't think they usually watched.  While I have aunts and uncles who are Purdue alum, I never had anybody watching, to call me up if I got any screen-time for the games.

I know my parents are IU alum.  Had there been an engineering school at IU, I would have gone there.  But the state of Indiana put in place some division of labor between the state schools.  Purdue does not have a school of Music, and IU does not have a school of Engineering.

My mother-in-law is also an IU alum, but she manages to cheer Purdue on for all but one game of the season.  When my in-laws came for games, they'd attend pregame, the game, the post-game show, and sometimes even the fountain concert.  I wanted my parents to see what I loved about band.  Tuba cadence,

Maybe just one more time...

run-out, (do NOT get in the way of a running sousaphone!)



all that work we put into it, all the fun we had.

Four years later, when I heard that Sguth was performing in the school play, and nobody from the family was planning to show up, I made the six-hour round trip to support my brother.

I also drove up to watch Sguth perform in West Side Story one summer, at the Firefly Festival in South Bend.  He was one of the gang members, I don't remember which gang.  Actually, I think that's the only time I've seen it performed yet.

Because that's what families are supposed to be about.  At least, that's what my parents always said.

Then again... maybe that is a lesson I learned it from the band.  We were most definitely encouraged to attend concerts for the other bands, and to stay for the other bands after our performance.