If You Could Read My Mind–The Show

debaseinstallHistory and Winter Guard

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I was there. I saw it live. It was a time in winter guard that for me, was innocent and pure. I saw nothing, but flags and rifles, and my favorite piece of equipment was a sabre. It was a time when World Finals occurred on Sunday morning, except we didn’t call it World, we called it Open and the arena didn’t sell out in the round. It was a time when the arena had a bit more intimacy and I was so wide eyed I didn’t even know what Headquarters was or what it meant. The show was haunting and left an audience spell bound.

We all have that one show. It’s the one that cements our time in the activity and whether or not we choose to continue along the pageantry path or not, it’s how we see our time on the floor. I didn’t march this show, but my God I was in the stands that Sunday afternoon when it changed the activity forever. I’ve been around winter guard since 1987 and in all my years have only missed one WGI. Since my first year I’ve seen a lot of shows, but this was the one that changed it all and there hasn’t been another since. This show had such innovation that it changed the way we designed, spun, and cleaned and to this day, nothing has lead such a charge. Guards have tried, but not to this level.

If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts could tell.”

They were Blessed Sacrament and the year was 1989. When I think back to that time, I remember a 19 year old girl wanting desperately to march in any independent guard anywhere. I really wanted to march State Street but, I also loved Pride and Miller’s Blackhawks. Oh and then there was Alliance and San Jose. It was definitely a year to remember. It was Blessed Sacrament though, that sealed my fate in an activity that has kidnapped my time and creativity; body and heart. I remember watching the show live and to this day, remember where I was sitting and the silence in the arena as people feared to take a breath, because if they did, they might miss a moment. I remember the standing ovation that covered the arena like a slow wave, because most of us didn’t want to stand up and cheer. When the show ended we just wanted to sit in our seats breathless and just take in the moment that comes so rarely in life. I was sitting in section 222.

Sometimes when I hear the song on the radio, the feeling is so palpable that I really feel as if I’m back there in that seat, in section 222. As the song plays, images that introduce the moment of the perfect rifle catch with a leap under it or the entrance of the white flags that left thousands of people breathless, play through my mind. I sometimes forget, which I think many of us do, that there was another song that played before that. No one ever talks about that song. We just call it the “Read your Mind” show. The one with the white flags.

“Just like an old time movie, about a ghost from a wishing well.”

“In a castle dark or a fortress strong with chains upon my feet. You know that ghost is me.”

“And I will never be set free, as long as I’m a ghost that you can’t see.”

I’m really glad that I saw that show when I did and at the age that I was. I’m glad I saw it before I started judging, because I fear if I had been judging I might have actually “judged it.” I’m glad I saw it before I marched, because I was able to see it before I became their competitor. Mostly though, I’m glad I saw it before I became a little jaded and taught too many kids, judged too many guards, and played politics with too many people. I was just young. I was 19 and it was a perfect time to be introduced to what many of us would call the Renaissance of Winter Guard. In my opinion, Blessed Sac’s 1989 show started the Renaissance, allowing for a flurry of talent and creativity to rise to the top of our hearts and giving us memories that will last a lifetime. That show paved the way for many of my guards to succeed as well. I often tell the kids I teach, that they will never grasp what those guards back in the “day” did for them today. All that soft pretty music A class guards do now?Well…we can thank 1989 to that. Ending flag features? Yep…1989. Solid silk flags? Once again…1989. Many of those moments came before 1989, but Sac put it all in one show and stamped the activity forever.

“Just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstores sell.”

“When you reach the part where the heartaches come, the hero would be me. Heroes often fail.”

“And you won’t read that book again, because the ending’s just too hard to take.”

Sometimes when I hear the music or someone posts the show on Facebook it makes me want to cry. I would do anything to feel that innocent again. I sit back and wish time would let me go back to that seat in 222, before I had a career, marriage, divorce, domestic violence, and kids; before I saw the activity from the corporate view. I wish I could take a breath of that moment one more time and watch as those white flags enter from the back. Each year in Dayton I sit in my seat and hope for a moment of innocence. It’s hard, though. I know too much. I know how to judge the guards and read the sheets. I’m critical of not just the units, but sometimes the instructors as well. We know each other, too well and for that, our somewhat jaded eyes block the beauty. We are a little bit too connected and sometimes too catty. I, along with many others, have seen too much to go back. We appreciate. We value. We credit. We understand that time moves us forward and with time comes change. I guess that’s what being old is. We understand it, but we might not always like it. Our perspective that time has given us, has also robbed us of innocent moments. I guess that’s why I look for it in the young performers I work with. That’s why I like the young ones.

“I walk away like a movie star who gets burned in a three way script. Enter number two.”

“A movie queen to play the scene of bringing all the good things out in me, but for now love let’s be real.”

Sometimes when I judge the younger units, the ones we call, “the baby guards,” I often want to say to them, If you could read my mind…what a tale my thoughts would tell.” I want the kids to hold on to it and breathe in whatever moment is theirs to breathe into. Over time I would eventually get my own moment on the floor as a performer and teacher. I think though, it was that Sunday afternoon in section 222, that is the one that takes me to a place where kids are just kids and we really were just flags in a gym. William Butler Yeats once said that the innocent and the beautiful have no enemy, but time. Well, one day time will take us all away, the ones that were in the gym on that fateful and memorable Sunday and the activity will be left to those who have their own 1989’s. Some of us, many of us actually, are already gone. As the song says, “The story always ends.” I just hope in the story, a a nod is given to the innocence that once was us and that an idea of simple white silks changed lives forever. Color guard can make the world a better place. At least it did for me.