Letter from Birdland: 'Last' milestones: Lovely days, harmonies

Letter from Birdland: 'Last' milestones: Lovely days, harmonies

Autumn has come to Birdland, and we are celebrating the last of the warm weather and the last of many other things, too, as we gear up for the looming empty nest. Yesterday was the last soccer game and today was the final marching band competition.

The soccer match took place on a grassy plateau in a wind that was cold, despite the sun. Some of our guys, including my favorite player, wore their purple and gold hats on the field. We rooted for the Sages, and they played valiantly, but this was destined to be their last game.

The mother hen who was so protective and attentive in the spring suddenly rejoined her sister hens in midsummer as they did their patient work. The chicks, then growing but gangly, were abruptly on their own. They would hang back when I brought the scoopful of pellets, while the others dug in, and I took to quietly pouring a little pile behind the maple tree so they could get a little breakfast in peace.

Their mother, who just a week ago would have defended her babies, didn't seem to notice or care. She is one of the Buff Orpingtons, and I only know which one because she is more red, the other four having bleached out their feathers by pecking around in the yard in the summer sun while she nestled quietly on her eggs in the dark.

I don't think I will handle my empty nest so callously. Instead, every "last" milestone for Ellis is more than a little bittersweet for me. My youngest was honored with the other senior soccer players with a flower and a photo with his parents. The band did the same again at his final home marching show last Friday.

Michael and I wanted to savor the show, so instead of lining up alphabetically like we were supposed to, we stayed in the stands until the show was over, then ran to catch up with the other parents, trying to find the H's, but we got confused until Ellis came and found us and, smiling, led us to our place in line, almost like he was the parent, we the nervous children.

He handed me a flower; we heard our names announced; the camera flashed. Suddenly four years of band camp, early morning and late evening practices were over, and we were walking off the field. He looked so handsome and regimental in his uniform.

I drove down to Charleston alone for the marching competition. I decided to zigzag down through country roads instead of taking the interstate, to the endless dismay of my GPS robot, which kept admonishing me to turn back at the next intersection to return to my route. I kept her on because, though I knew roughly what direction to drive, I didn't want to overshoot my target.

With every missed chance to turn back to the highway, she kept adding time to my ETA and grew more and more frantic until I hit Route 36, and then she calmly adjusted her estimate.

We arrived about the same time it would have taken on the interstate, and I got to see a lot more of the countryside.

The day was crisp and clear, and the colors were so lovely. The shorn fields were golden in the sun, and the many grain bins were silver against the sky. I pulled into Charleston in time to see a couple of bands perform before the Sages took the field.

I sat in the stands on the clear autumn day, watching as young people made patterns with their bodies and with sound. I thought about their organizational skills and how their precision creates lovely harmonies and rhythms, how they offer this generous gift to the delight of their audience.

I remembered my own marching band days and the feeling of blending my clarinet into one great communal song. Our band played well and came home with a prize, and I realized that our new crop of graduates will leave the nest well-prepared to lend their talents to their communities.

Play in beauty; march in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She remembers fondly her own marching band days and loves to hear the rhythms and see the patterns on the field. You can read more of her writings at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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