I had been in marching band since kindergarten, starting out on the piccolo, then graduating to the flute when my fingers grew long enough. This was another one of those things that my father insisted upon for culture and probably peace and quiet for him. I resisted, submitted and even enjoyed it eventually. The best part of band was that I was pretty good at the flute/piccolo thing and our band leader, Mr. Tulga, praised me with great enthusiasm and encouragement. In all honestly, he did that for everyone, but I took it as a personal, God-given, real and completely unadulterated gift that was nothing short of a miracle.
So if I was given this talent by God, that meant He wanted me to play in his band, march in those crisp white pants, white shirt and shiny black shoes! He wanted me to create music, as sweet as a songbird, which is why he chose the flute for me. Nothing about me was delicate or sweet; I was rough and tumble, was too loud and asked too many questions, didn’t behave like a lady, little or otherwise. I always thought I was more brassy than woodwind, but that’s why I’m me and not the Creator.
On one otherwise unremarkable evening, a new girl came into practice. I had never seen before but everyone in the room was immediately aware of her presence. She was a girly-girl, gorgeous chestnut hair spilling down her back, those really cool jeans that they don’t sell at K-Mart encasing her ridiculously long legs and on top of all that, she had these bewitching green eyes that reminded me of my cat. I think we must have been around 10 or so, but I couldn’t swear to it. We were not really little bratty kids, but we weren’t yet cool teenagers, either. The term limbo seemed to be a good fit; one foot in childhood, the other stretching for puberty, but not yet able to set even a toe down yet.
She really did remind me of a cat; no haste in her movements, no anxiety or restlessness to give away any nervousness; if anything, she was slightly bored with it all. She gazed around the room while her mother talked to Mr. Tulga and I was absolutely transfixed. I was also more than a little bit afraid that this green-eyed girl was going to take my place of honor and along with it, all the praise that was like a drug to me. For that possibility alone, I didn’t like her one bit.
Maybe she would play the clarinet and that would remove any comparison between the two of us. No, she was going to play the flute! The final insult to my imagined injury was when Mr. Tulga told me I had to teach her the scales!! How was I supposed to talk to, much less teach, a princess that looked like Brooke Shields with eyes that remind me of my cat and are possibly magical?
Thankfully, I did attempt to teach her scales and stopped looking at her like she was from another planet and instead just gave her the down-low on the whole band situation; walking in parades when the asphalt is so hot your feet stick to it, playing the same stupid song over and over again until your fingers are moving in your sleep. I also made sure that she didn’t learn too fast, otherwise we wouldn’t get to come outside and do our thing. I admit it, I was hooked on this intriguing creature I imagined was only masquerading as a human being. I wanted to know more about her world, where she came from and how she got to be in this less-than-stellar cow town and would she please take me with her the next time she goes?
From the outside, you couldn’t find one thing about the two of us that would indicate we were destined to duck out of boring things and find our own adventure for the next 40 years or so, but that’s pretty much what happened.
Today, we are a long way from Mr. Tulga’s marching band and learning the musical scales on flutes we play because we are living the dreams our parents had for us.
I have loved, lost, married, divorced, found my mind and lost it again many times over. I have lost my reason for living, rediscovered and redefined it again and again. I have learned to love my uniqueness and am starting to appreciate the simpler things in life, like a good conversation with no pretense. I am farther on my journey than I’ve ever been but I’m nowhere near the end. I have mourned many a loss, said far too many good-byes far too soon to those I love too much to let go. I have walked away from everything and rebuilt from nothing.
She is a mother, a grandmother, a wife and a career woman who loves fiercely and unconditionally and she continues to amaze me. She has reinvented herself more times than I can count and with each new manifestation, she’s stronger, more focused, more powerful.
She flings open the curtains and brings the light in when I’m content to sit in the darkness and let life pass me by; she knows where to look to find the best parts of me when I believe they have been lost forever. She’s my champion, my keeper of secrets, my twin flame and my true north. She’s born witness to my struggles, my victories, as well as my shameful sins and my glorious amends. She’s taught me that love is magic and as such, is stronger than hate. I have learned that time is of no consequence when you’re dealing with the heart and neither time nor distance apart will ever break these bonds.
We have let months go by without calling, we have moved away and returned, found and lost love, argued and disagreed, got our feelings hurt and pride wounded, but have never given up on the other. Maybe that’s the beauty of it; we made a promise to each other and to ourselves a long time ago and even though we were young, we were wise and recognized a kindred spirit in the other.
Or maybe it IS magic, something about those eyes….