When the Band Comes Marching In

Having graduated from Minnechaug two years ago, it was a bit awkward approaching band director Margaret Reidy and asking to march with the band one more time in the Memorial Day parade in Hampden.
It was even more awkward when my sister told me that Reidy said I was “the worst marcher in Minnechaug history.”

Thanks, Ms. Reidy. Thanks.

But, I choose to look at it as a chance for redemption. A chance to prove that I was not “the worst” marcher but a far more respectable one of the worst. I had nowhere to go but up.

Marching in the Hampden Memorial Day Parade is a band tradition. It is a way to say thank you to the towns that support us as well as to the soldiers that have made our way of life possible. It is the least we could do.

But still not easy, in my opinion.

The goal is for the entire band to move as a giant amoeba. You have to maintain vertical and horizontal lines while straining to listen to whistle cues that tell you when to stop, go and play music.

Then of course you have to play music while you walk, which I have found to be significantly harder than talking while walking.

And all of this must be accomplished while staying in step.

I had not marched since the Memorial Day Parade of my senior year, when I received an embarrassing C+. Feel free to laugh.

But this time, I was going to do better. Unlike my younger more immature self, I decided to attend a marching band practice with the Concert Band — the easiest of the three Minnechaug bands that consists mostly of freshmen — and take it seriously.

Around and around the Minnechaug parking lot we marched, all the while I steadily chanted in my head left, right, left, right, left, right.

It wasn’t a whole lot better, but it was better. I was in step about 70 percent of the time.
By parade day, I had decided to take my sister’s advice and “just look good, don’t worry about the music; just look good.”

During the parade I marched in the center of the second to last row, making me one of the hardest people to spot, an intentional move I am sure on Reidy’s part.

While I did play approximately 70 percent of the time the band was playing, my main goals were to not send the band toppling over and to stay in step.

So carefully watching the feet of the people in front of me, I chanted left, right, left, right.

For the entire parade, I thought of nothing else. I paid absolutely no attention to the people on the side of the road and only vaguely heard their cheering. Whenever a chaperone came by asking if I needed water, I only vaguely moved my head as some indicator that now was not a good time.

In fact the only comment I remember is overhearing some guy ask at the very start of the parade “Aren’t they hot in those uniforms?”

To answer your question, yes, yes we are sir. The sweat is dripping down on our backs and by the end of the parade all of the clothes under our uniform range from damp to soaked.

But it’s fine. Worth it even. Because we look good and are using a day set aside to remember to the fallen, to actually remember the fallen and give back to our community.

And that’s a good thing.


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