Baton twirler's parents lose Saturdays until final competition
By Anthony Buccino
It’s the parents who are sitting on heavy blankets, wearing thermal underwear, thermal socks, thermal neckwear, thermal hats and special gloves with places for shake-activated charcoal hand-warmers
Thursday ends the season for one of the most grueling of endurance tests parents face throughout their child’s teenage years.
Yes, the Turkey Day football game is the pinnacle of the season. Our children have struggled through field exercises and tried to do their best against far bigger teams. And, yes, through the cold, rain and wind, parents huddled, covered themselves and bundled against the odds of nature to watch our kids on the field.
Parents from towns all across the nation will breathe a collective sigh of relief when the second half of the local high school game begins Thursday, and the full squad exits the field in perfect unison ending yet another glorious marching band season.
From this point, there is little for band parents to do besides attend a fund-raiser here and a concert there and a band parent meeting, and a fund-raiser there, and keep track of the little goodies the kids will be selling from wrapping paper to chocolate bars to wrapping paper, a different season, to decals and that unique little item that will sell by the truckload and finance the band’s trip to wherever they are going this year.
And perhaps on top of that, a fund-raiser or two for the scholarship fund, the new equipment, new uniforms, new acoustic ceiling, new equipment vehicle, take your pick. You know that something is always wearing out, getting torn, breaking down, going out of style, et cetera.
Attending the band parent meetings helps the interested parent keep track of what the band kids are selling, when and where the trip is or not this year, and when it will be, and, of course, that age-old question, “What’s it gonna cost me?”
Unlike some groups I have been associated with in the past, the music boosters is one group that if you miss the annual election, they don’t elect you president or chairman of something or other. But as most band parents will learn or have learned, it can be just as interesting and rewarding giving something to the group as what the children get out of the whole deal.
Sure, band parents attend the football games, home and away, to root for the band and cheer along with the cheerleaders for the ball players. Then, later in the day, when the ball players are treating contusions, fractures, bruises and concussions, the marching band has trekked to some foreign high school to take the field against other bands their own size.
And each member of each band gives it all they have, and the best teams win. But the also-rans learn what they’ve done wrong from the competitions and chip away at their flaws and shore up their strengths and work harder to be better at the next competition.
Meanwhile, band parents from every walk of life arrive from every stretch of roadway to be there for their kid and for the other kids on the field. It’s the parents who are sitting on heavy blankets, wearing thermal underwear, thermal socks, thermal neckwear, thermal hats and special gloves with places for the charcoal hand-warmers that activate by shaking.
Sometimes the hand-warmers activate as the music parents shiver in the stands trying to sit on the cushion on the blanket on the iced-over metal bleachers, all the while waiting for their kid and the rest of the band to take the field in competition.
Bloomfield and Belleville marching band groups have sponsored band festivals and competitions recently. Nutley and Glen Ridge don’t have the night lights necessary, and their bands compete in sometimes distant, sometimes near venues.
One cold snowy night a year or so ago, Nutley was competing in Brick, meanwhile Belleville was hosting a competition. Earlier this month, Bloomfield hosted a bandfest, while neighboring bands had committed to compete in other towns such as Ramsey, Old Bridge, Verona, North Trumbull, Conn., Giants stadium and the like.
It’s the long waits parents endure at the schoolhouse waiting for the buses to return from distant competitions that set them apart. Why, one cold dark night a dad was parked a block from the school waiting for his little girl to come home on the bus.
In the meantime, dad, in the tradition that makes dads famous, rested his eyes. When the bus arrived with his child, she did not see dad, nor hear him snoring, and got a ride home from a friend. A few hours later, in the middle of the night, dad awakened to the empty street, the empty school, and then headed home only to find his child safe and long asleep.
Various music teachers will tell you that kids who can read music tend to do better in other areas as well. In a way, that is the farmer telling us how good the corn is, but if the kids are busy with practice, practice and more practice, there is less time to get into trouble, although there will always be an enterprising few who could get into trouble at an angel convention, but that would be true in any group.
Yet band parents sit in the cold bleachers, week after week, cold night after cold rainy night all for a reason. No, they are not nuts, band kids whose parents attend all those many, many functions tend to do better in school. At least that’s what the people who constantly seek volunteers to help at this function and that function tend to repeat to novice volunteer parents.
Seriously, band parents sit in the middle of the stands on cold, icy-damp, foggy nights because their kid is on the field. And though the child on the field thinks anyone in those cold stands is nuts, some day, the child will realize that these were the best days of their lives, cold, foggy, rainy damp night and all the rest.
It's the team spirit of the marching band that tried again and again every day to be better than yesterday and always exceed a personal best. It’s that spirit that stays within their hearts all the days, all the days of their lives.
First published Nov. 21, 1996, in The Independent Press of Bloomfield, Worrall Community Newspapers. Adapted from RAMBLING ROUND Inside and Outside at the Same Time
Copyright ©1996, 2015 by Anthony Buccino, All Rights Reserved
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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards. The Pushcart Prize-nominated writer has been called ' “New Jersey’s ‘Garrison Keillor” or something to that effect.’
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