Band Mom Training

Our local high school prairie band, the Pride of Piedmont, traveled twenty arduous miles to participate in the State marching competition. After a morning of practice, they endured the prelims to pass gracefully into the finals last night.
As a Band Mom in the Works, I had to attend and take my budding percussionist Bubs with me, of course. I mean, it was a must: to sample the future, to taste the air, to sense the incoming.
And to buy probably the world’s worst popcorn — twice! — but that’s an aside.
Twelve bands from around the state earned their way into the finals, which began an hour early, as weather was forecast to ruin all evening plans. Things needed to move quickly in order to duck for cover before impending high winds and tornadic conditions disbanded — see what I did there? — us early. (It was a hot day; cold fronts and hot air don’t blend well, causing Disruption, Madness, Entropy, the Big Three.)
As an Okie, I was ready: I brought a raincoat. That was nearly Scout-like behavior for me, the ultimate non-forward thinker. I was ridiculously proud of bringing a coat, shunning it quickly beneath the bleachers without another thought. My inner storm-sense felt no whisper of anything but excitement and snare drum vibrations.
Our band didn’t play until 8pm, while clouds rolled in, iPhones everywhere tuned to weather radars, and breezes blew a tiny bit more forcefully than minutes before. Weather aside — because hey, weather and Okies are an ageless duo, married lo these many years (it does its thing, we ignore it) — tension was palpable. Even Bubs had abandoned his twelfth request to get up and leave and do whatever pre-teens deem fun aside from sitting still with their moms.
(Let me take a moment to feel my maternal gene quietly cry and shrivel.)
When finally the Pride marched afield, happy Piedmontian feet stomped repeatedly across aluminum bleachers, drowning out any thunder that dared approach. Our anxious crowd sounded like a herd of buffalo trampling grasses, leaving deep, deep footprints, and video-graphing every step, because buffalo do that, as they, too, care about posterity as much as any glowing Band Mom alive.
And the band did us proud. They were lovely in their blue and black with silver striping, recreating the Black Plague, the death, the mayhem. Our stricken teens ended up prostrate across the yard lines, valiantly playing the parts of corpses as Doctor Death beneath his crow mask wandered between castaway instruments and polyester clad bodies to fully appreciate his reign of doom.
It was epic.
And Bubs loved it, too.
So. Snapshot of the future, right there.
And the rain, though it dropped teaspoons of rain upon us during the tabulating and subsequent award ceremony, held back until much later. It knew our wrath should it fall prematurely.
And instruments are expensive, so thank you, buffalo of yore, for your input into holding back the storms until all the tubas were packed and the bells rolled away.
The future is bright.
(Though I’m not certain my poor raincoat, resentfully discarded hastily beneath my seat, made it back to the house…)

I Can Hear Bells from Everywhere

My Bubs is officially a sixth grade band member.
I am a band mom.

I am a band mom to a sixth grade percussionist.
Monday was Instrument Night, in which moms cry a lot as they write really big checks and then go home to eat ramen.
(Or maybe it was just this mom. The other didn’t seem so stressed. And actually, I don’t mind ramen, so that last statement may have seemed more dire than intended.)
Anyway, what does a big check buy on Instrument Night? Well, for a newly minted percussionist, it buys a carry-on luggage-style bag — with sassy wheels and a clever ull-out handle, thank heaven — housing a drum practice pad, a set of mallets, a set of drumsticks, an instrument stand, a metronome, a chromatic tuner, and a xylophone, though I was immediately corrected that indeed it was not a xylophone, it was a “set of bells,” that for all my worldly experience I would swear was a xylophone.
Here’s the sweet, sweet thing: Bubs wanted to “get the feel” for his new instrument, as for the last week he’s been learning how to hold sticks, how to tap rhythmically, how to keep time, and now that he had a rolly-cart full of official merchandise, he wanted to practice on the real thing.
Absolutely! Yes! Let’s do this!
He carefully demonstrated how to mount his drum practice pad on the stand; it screws on; it’s a dull sound, not the snare drum chaos I was expecting. I took my fingers out of my ears almost immediately, so Bubs didn’t know of my fear.
Then he moved on to the metronome, which he turned on and to which I found myself keeping time while I was watching ramen noodles boil. Why was the beat, beat, beat continuing? Why was Bubs not stopping the madness? Oh, because he suddenly had to go to the bathroom for the interminably long time that boys suddenly go to the bathroom. Books are involved.
Somehow I managed to find the power button on the delightful apparatus that I learned “stays home for nightly practice.”
Delightful.
Once Bubs was out of the bathroom, he returned to center stage to put together the bells — to properly mount them on the instrument stand — and grab his mallets.
“Ready?” he asked while I shoveled noodles into my head.
“Yes,” I mumbled and nodded. I had no free fingers to plug my ears. Why would I? Bells are melodic, bells are lovely, soothing, dainty…
What the holy hell.
I have never heard such disruption of my psychic calm.
Did you know an eleven-year-old boy can make a xylophone wail like it’s part of Metallica?
Or maybe that was only me wailing.
Because without even realizing it, Bubs’ mother had deserted her noodle bowl, grabbed a bag of dark chocolate chips of questionable age and a screw-top bottle of red wine — pairings are important, even in the time of crisis; dark chocolate absolutely must go with red wine — and vanished into her bedroom as quickly as possible. Door closed. Netflix on the Fish in Aquarium app — “so soothing!” squeals the ad — and a fistful of chocolate shoved into her maw as quickly as possible.
Band Mom. That’s me.
Ever supportive. Ever present. Ever tipsy.
It’s going to be a long year.

Mullets are New Again

My Bubs wanted a mullet.
He wanted no haircut at all, ever, for the rest of his days. But I insisted. And bribed. So I won.
And when he finally landed like a long fabled hundred-pound fish into the light of a barber chair, where scissors awaited, he still slumped like I was about to club him and throw him back into the water, where he really wanted to be anyway.
I couldn’t have that.
The clubbing. Or the caught-but-released-with-no-haircut part.
My metaphor fell apart somewhere in there.
Under the watchful eyes of the Barber Lady, I had to resort to groveling, and the only tactic that worked was, “Yes. Fine. Mullet. Let’s go.”
And a mullet he got. Yes, he did. Four inch fringe laying across the back of his neck.
Well.
Girls know, when hair dries, if it is genetically predisposed to the least bit of wave/curl/bounce, the genes will present themselves. Pain in the rear, I can tell you, as one who looks like a standard poodle after being drowned by a giant wave that overtook the bow of the good ship Lollipop and now looks extraordinarily strange wearing patent leather shoes and ankle socks.
Bubs did not know that.
So when Bubs’ hair dried, he recognized that he has a lovely curl to his tresses. Sorry. My genes. Not great for a boy, I see that.
But would he let me return him to the original barber chair? Um, no.
We bargained…again…and his main concern was having to interrupt his gaming.
Okay. It’s a problem. I had a solution.
Bubs leaned his head back, releasing the fringe to hang loosely behind him. I cut quickly, deftly, with a pair of scissors the size of a human femur, and then scooped up bits of hair with a shop vac. And it was going great, in that the main clump was affable, willingly relenting to the vacuum, while nearly invisible tendrils were less forthcoming.
It was a requirement to go for the strands on Bubs’ neck. Required.
And maybe the hose stuck to his neck, like…stuck…and while he was screaming, “Get it off,” repeatedly, I was thinking, “Oh, great, his neck is going to look buried under a hickey from a giant catfish, which is a seemingly less embarrassing story than the truth.”
Fortunately, a quick flick of the Off switch resolved the stressful situation and no bruises remain.
Bubs went back to gaming, clearly unscathed and thus erasing any immediate trauma from a literal red neck situation.
I ended up vacuuming the living room, which was an unexpected Martha Stewart moment that my non-cleaning inner non-Martha appreciated.
And, best part, I wove my fish metaphor back through this story.
So. Win/win.

A Day to Remember, though Not Fondly

I was going to tell you an interesting story about a mean bird, a four-foot Nerf gun, and a fruitless attempt at channeling the wisdom of Renee Zellweger.
The bird lived; the Nerf gun cleaned up nicely; and Zellweger’s quote has yet to be Googled, but I know it was brilliant and timely, the spirit of it was dead on, and yet I declined the advice.
But before I could fill in the blanks on that startlingly brilliant vignette, another thing happened.
My Bubs, my beautiful Bubs, has an instinctive need to lock the truck doors before exiting the vehicle. While I appreciate his kindly protecting our maybe-valuables while we spend time outside the confines of a Ram truck, sometimes…well, sometimes.
Yesterday I stopped for gas. Bubs stopped for an Icy drink and perhaps a hot dog, if they were indeed spinning in oil across that roller-dog thing.
I was watching his safe travel across the parking lot while the pump put gas into my car.
Once my son was safely upon the sidewalk of the local convenience store, I turned to put my credit card back into my wallet.
I guess Bubs and I are all about protecting things.
But the door was locked, blocking my re-entry into the driver seat.
No matter how many times I pulled on the door handle, it would not let me in.
Three times, four times; denied.
I could see through the tinted window: my wallet, my phone, my purse, my son’s brand new book from the morning’s book fair, and my keys, sitting lovingly and ready in the bucket of my seat.
Only the ending click of the gas pump startled me back to life.
There are no pay phones, yet twelve thousand walked around the 7-11 while I stood rooted to one place, trying to recall any single number to contact any single person I knew who could help me in my new emergency situation.
And I was coming up empty.
Adrenaline took over, I rushed into the convenience store to look for my Bubs by the hot dog rolling thing, and he was not there. In fact, he was sucking on a cola icy drink while holding the side door for an overall-clad gentleman. He’s such a good boy.
Except for the locking the door thing. There’s that.
Suffice it to sum up:
7-11 doesn’t allow long distance calls.
Neither does Subway.
Not everyone likes that you ask to pleasepleaseplease borrow their cell phone.
Library patrons frequent 7-11 and are kind enough to help, though the efforts prove fruitless and now I owe him a couple dozen cookies to repay his kindness and replace his own melting icy drink.
Subway gentlemen are willing to offer their personal phone for help.
Fortunately, I could remember my own dad’s cell number and he was kind enough to start a text chain of frantic needs for immediacy and chocolate.
And last but not least, firemen rock.
Though I was able to start a Help Me Pleasepleaseplease chain, Subway gentleman prompted a secondary 911 by pointing across the street to a firehouse full of men who “aren’t supposed to, but I bet they will.”
Thus did Bubs and I find ourselves running across a busy street toward help.
And help rushed out the door, into a big red truck, and dashed back down the street toward my stranded-in-pump-six truck while Bubs and I loped after them.
The firemen had already unsheathed their tools and started on both sides of that vehicle.
Five minutes later, truck open, I was taking orders for treats and rewards and Bubs and I were on the road to the local grocery for Rocky Road and Homemade Vanilla.
Can’t thank people enough for their kindness, and can’t wait another minute to scroll through my phone, write down all my contact numbers, and sew the list into my bra.
It’s gonna be a busy day.