“You’re the strangest person I ever met,” she said and I said, “You too,” and we decided we’d know each other a long time.”
When I write, I often…more often than not…write with a specific song in mind. I have found throughout my life, as many of us have, that music speaks to me when nothing or no one else can. There are times when even I don’t know how to find what’s lurking in the dark reaches of my soul. Music however, can do that. The right melody or right lyric can transform my thoughts from sadness to happiness or take me back in time to what seemed more innocent. When I heard Jason Ehleben’s song Wake while sitting at work listening to Pandora, I immediately saw myself in a world much different from the present. I felt a pleasure that only comes with the memories of childhood and the reflections of a life that once again sits on a precipice of change. With that, I connect you to this, which was written with Wake playing in the background.
It’s been 31 years. Arrogance would tell me that in those 31 years I’ve seen it all, knowing full well “all” is still yet to come. I’ve shared in moments of pure joy and downright despair. I’ve traveled all over the country and at times (admittedly not as often as I would like) outside of the United States. I’ve been a witness or a participant in marriage, divorce, birth, jobs, job loss, and death. I’ve watched, as most of us do, the aging of my parents as I stand dismayed at the passage of time. It has been 31 years and there are times that the emotion through a song on the radio or the exact hint of the rain on the pavement on a hot summer day can take me back to the innocence unfettered by time. Looking back, music was my first love.
Time. Dr. Seuss once asked the question.
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn, How did it get so late so soon?”
31 years ago this summer I attended band camp as a high school freshmen. We were a band that went away to camp and standing on hot asphalt at the age of 14, there was no possible way that I could have foreseen how my life would be transformed into a world of music, marching, and friendship. I remember holding my flute and struggling with the concept of playing while moving, memorization, and perfection as an ensemble. I can’t say I remember many details about that time in my life, but I remember the feeling. I remember the people. This past week I got a chance to revisit my hometown of Nashville…Music City. On one very special Friday night I had the opportunity to have dinner with two friends from that time in my life. In all levels of rational thought, we only knew each other for a short time, but the struggles of those days in band connected us for life. Facebook has created incredible opportunities for my generation, that enable us to keep tabs on and catch up with people from our past. My generation is the first generation to get to middle age and not have to repeat the phrase, “I wonder what happened to such and such?” Nowadays, chances are that “such and such” will at the least know someone who knows someone who will report their whereabouts on Facebook. We are in a time when we can share pictures from days long gone, jarring a memory or two once forgotten. Social media is an amazing invention allowing us to stay in touch and if you aren’t careful it can be dangerous. Too much visiting of the past can impede you from living in the present. However, sometimes visiting the past is necessary to be able to move into the future. There’s nothing though that Facebook does, that makes up for the face to face meeting of old friends sitting around reminiscing about the past and sharing in the present day questions of how our lives have turned out. In that dinner we talked of adolescent antics, how the times have changed, and our own personal failures. We spoke of despair we felt of friends we’ve lost along the way and how those friends have left an indelible mark on our lives. It was truly a special moment and we didn’t hide ourselves from each other. We were raw and we were real.
There seems to be an unspoken rule about friends formed on the field of music that no matter what, we will be real. We will be honest. If you aren’t then what’s the point? Why pretend you are more than you are? Why try to say you are happy when you aren’t? It’s those people who have been with you for decades, who cried with you when you were 15, that should be able to cry with you when you are 40. It’s an amazing gift in life to have someone who remembers when you were a child and who knows you as an adult. They are the ones when life beats you down who will tell you what an amazing person you have always been. They will see your beauty as a child see’s a butterfly, because they knew you before you became the butterfly you are today.
Later that night, we went and sat on the old practice field and talked. That’s when we could truly feel the authenticity of our lives. It was if God was giving us a brief moment to connect back to a time that allowed us to be truly human. Marching band, at least the one I was in, was not unlike any other sports team where you learned the lessons of life through the field of victory and defeat and I couldn’t help but wonder, if those that weren’t lucky enough to have what we had, still connect with old friends in similar ways? Do they have the bonds of a lifetime, because I know that personally I don’t connect with friends from Algebra class. I connect with friends from band. Ironically, the song Music Was My First Love, was our closer in my 10th grade year. It’s a song that would define my life.
In the end, I looked over the practice field a realized that I really couldn’t remember any specifics about that time. The details are fading with age and the laugh lines that contour my face. It’s all now an amalgam created by time, but in that amalgam made up of friendship and music, all I could feel was love. I couldn’t remember the details, but I remembered the music played by people unimpeded by time. As we begin a new season of band camps, my hope for this new generation of kids is to be in the moment. Feel the heat of the sun on your face and embrace the moments of struggle. Find your tribe and stick with them, because when you are my age, you will want someone who remembers the details of you.