With hip swings so enthusiastic they frequently landed her in detention at Our Lady of Angels High School, my mother loved playing her trumpet in the marching band. She passed on her trumpet loving genes to my sister Jenny, who, dressed in her bridesmaid gown, blew her horn at my long-ago wedding, and to my nephew Michael, who played the trumpet in his high school jazz band.
With a little encouragement from my dad, my mom would sashay through our family room, marching to music both measured and far away.
Imagine, then, my mom’s glee at being offered the opportunity to direct the UW Madison marching band during a Fifth Quarter song, thanks to a recent Mother’s Day gift from my brother Mike. Then, imagine her panic.
She marched every day between May 11 and this past Saturday, listening to band recordings and studying YouTube videos. She met with Appleton North High School Band Director Jim Thaldorf, who kindly practiced with her and gave her some excellent tips. She eagerly read emailed suggestions from her grandson Michael, the most recent marcher in the family.
She bought herself a baton.
By the time Saturday arrived, she had collected quite a creative assortment of what ifs.
“What if I get them all off beat?”
“What if I drop the baton?”
“What if I fall off the platform?”
A light rain fell at half-time and she watched world-famous band director Michael Leckrone ascend a surprisingly tall ladder.
“I can’t do this,” she said.
The funny thing about life, of course, is that our most challenging tasks are generally the most fun.
Certainly, this was the case with my mom Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall. She marched up that ladder like a pro, moved her baton with increasing confidence, and, eventually, swung her hips in the exact same way she used to vex OLA Principal Sister Therese de Lords all those years ago.
Then, she stayed on the field with the rest of the band and did a little Chicken Dance.