Originally posted at Jan 28th, 2015 4:11:00pm @ nicolecrucial.tumblr.com.
Today my school’s band director emailed my mom to tell her to tell me about a hole.
Background: for the first three years of high school, I was a guard girl, one of the people who tosses flags and sabres and rifles on the football field at halftime with the marching band. There is also a thing called winterguard, in which they do the same thing except indoors and without the band. A “hole” happens when somebody drops out of a show that has already been choreographed for a set number of people.
I wrestled with a lot of feelings last year when I thought about (and then did end up) quitting guard. A lot of uncertainty, because it was something I’d done for all of high school; I didn’t know life without it. A lot of guilt, because I was a co-captain and I felt–I knew–that I was important to the team. (I was the only one who ever counted. The one who took care of the clueless new recruits and taught them all the basics at auditions every season. The one who always talked positively when things were rough.) Guilt because quitting band felt like a betrayal; of the program and of myself. I had loved guard, once. Surely I still did, under everything.
I went to the first day of auditions for the fall season of my senior year, dropped a million tosses, and wondered why I was standing on the concrete doing something that was making me miserable. And then I didn’t come back.It was one of the hardest decisions that I ever made. I still went to the band banquet at the end of the year. There is always a ceremony where the year’s graduating seniors light candles and pass them on to the year’s rising seniors. And to my surprise, my band director called my name to come take an unlit candle, even though I wasn’t doing guard in the fall. She still had hope that I’d come back.
Despite the guilt, I didn’t miss guard at all. Who could miss spending twenty hours of the week exhausted, in pain, and/or bored out of his or her mind? I didn’t know how I’d done it. Although I had quit band, my brother, who marched drumline, had not. My mother was still a band mom, sewing uniforms and flags, helping out at competitions. Scarcely a weekend went by where she didn’t mention to me that so-and-so missed me, that someone else wanted to know if I was coming back, that the new guard instructor said he “needed me” for my leadership skills next season (despite not having known me–just stories). It felt good to be missed. And the tugs at my heartstrings continued. Each time, briefly, I considered going back for the winter. What if? And then I remembered that I hadn’t touched a flag, rifle, or sabre in months, that I would be out of practice and inferior to the members who used to be my equals, that I would inevitably get stuck on flagline, where nobody cares about anything.
Nah. Not for me. Not anymore. I didn’t go to winter tryouts. I had a job. I had homework. I had NaNoWriMo and plans with friends and tons of things that I was occupying my time with.
And then this morning, in the middle of the winter season, right before competitions began, my band director emailed my mom to tell her to tell me about a hole.
I’d known there was a hole. One of my coworkers, who is also an ex-guard girl, told me about it in second period. She told me that she’s been asked to fill it. She told me that she is probably going to fill it. The hole is as good as gone. I didn’t think much about it this morning because it was out of reach before I knew about it.
“Why do you want to go back?” I asked my friend. She pointed out that by now , the hard part of the season–the months of grueling practices with no end and no reward in sight–is over. Competitions begin next weekend. The fun part is just starting. The performances. The days covered in glitter and drenched in adrenaline. The only thing, if anything, that anyone ever misses about guard. The only thing I miss about it, when I stop long enough to remember.
She had a point. But she is filling the spot. This morning, I didn’t need to think about it. And then, my band director emailed my mom to tell her to tell me about a hole.
She showed me when I got home. It was dated 8:00am–probably before my band director talked to my co-worker and finalized things. Before the hole was filled–and it’s now probably filled. But for a moment, when I saw the email, my heart jumped.
What if I could be a guard girl again? Without even having to deal with all the misery that precedes the fun? It’s a moot point. I told my mom that. I texted my coworker to make sure that there is only one hole, and she is filling it. There’s not even a point to thinking about the pros and cons, about what I’d have to give up if I wanted to do it. It’s gone.
But for a moment I wondered. For a moment I might have wanted to fill that hole. I don’t have the chance to, anymore. It did not pass me by so much as overlook me in the first place.
I don’t regret quitting guard. I don’t regret choosing not to enroll in the winterguard season. I don’t regret that I’m not a guard girl anymore. But for a moment, I had the option. For a moment, I wanted it. Missed it. Felt it in my blood. For a moment.
Soon, my band director will email my mom to tell her to tell me that yes, the hole is filled.
But this morning, my band director emailed my mom to tell her to tell me about a hole.
Featured image courtesy of Vladimir Kramer.