It’s Band Night in Port Chester.
I’m here in Old Greenwich, fresh from a killer body sculpting workout I’m sure to feel tomorrow, but my heart is on that football field.
The field where I spent too many frosty early mornings to count practicing with numb fingers and sneakers soaked with the morning dew. Where we performed at half-time, competed against other bands, and once a year from the time I was 8, marched for all the moms and dads, sisters and brothers, friends and relatives.
Band night is a huge tradition, the chance for the school district’s robust and enthusiastic music program to show its chops, one school at a time.
I looked forward to it every year — from the time I was wearing King Street School crimson and black and balancing the theme from “Star Wars” on a lyre until I was bringing it home in a pith helmet with a “Danny Boy” finale.
Seeing some friends’ pictures on Facebook just now brought it all back. In my mind, I can hear the drum cadence, and may actually be sitting up a little taller in response.
Four years ago, I had the chance to march with the band again. The music program hosted a huge reunion of band members going back to when the PC band started. I jumped at the chance to dust off my clarinet nearly 20 years since I’d played and learn it all again.
Looking back, I can see it was the start of a huge sea change for me. Then newly unemployed and seeking both a new chapter in life and my birth mother, the music kept me grounded.
How amazed I was at how much came flooding back.
And how mortified Catherine was to hear me practice each day and briefly consider taking “lessons” from one of her school chums.
She was doubly embarrassed to see me march, which I’ll never understand. It’s not as though I was wearing a big sign that said, “Catherine Vanech’s Mom.”
Four years later, I have a new vocation full of exciting challenges and an avocation that allows me to bring joy to others an hour at a time. I’ve found my birth mother and am getting to know her and my two half-brothers (and in a couple of weeks a whole bunch of other “new” relatives).
Through it all, I stuck with the band.
Tomorrow night, you’ll find me practicing with the Rye Town Community Band. After all those years of being hounded to practice, I’ll fairly run to Port Chester Middle School right after supper and put my lips and fingers through their paces.
I can’t think of too many better ways to spend an evening.