when i was in fourth grade i joined the band. i played the flute.
actually, i can still play the flute. kind of. five years of band, two years of charlotte junior youth orchestra, many three-hour saturday rehersals, two wedding performances, and constant struggles with a cheap metal music stand don’t soon disappear from the subconscious.
i remember a christmas band concert. fourth grade. december 1990. i was wearing a dress that involved faux black velvet. and plaid. and the metal clasp of my very large-bowed barette was definitely digging into my skull. it was very cold outside (at the time i lived in cary, illinois, just minutes from woostock, illinois, where bill murray’s groundhog day and parts of wayne’s world were filmed).
after a few off-key ensemble renditions of silent night, jingle bells, and joy to the world, my band teacher approached the mic and announced my duet. i was slated to play “oh come all ye faithful” with jasmine (sax). i took a deep fourth-grade breath, shot one more furtive glance at my fourth-grade black patent leather mary janes, and prepared myself to praise the newborn king jesus christ with my fourth-grade skills.
but there was one problem. jasmine was firmly glued to her chair, clutching her sax with white and sweaty fourth-grade hands and furiously shaking her head. she was punking out. punking out on me and the the newborn king jesus christ. i was forced to be faithful all on my own. and in fourth grade no less, when nothing is done alone — not lunch, not trips to the bathroom, not even crossing the street.
yet i survived. both verses. i was joyful and triumphant, dammit.