Born of a Brass Band
My earliest memory was standing on my father’s feet playing my wonderful horn. He had the big trombone and called me his second chair. Trombones make a tenor sound. The sound lies to the outside world, “Here I am. I shine. I spew, I rock the world.” How could a daughter ask for less? We would stand outside the baseball stadium waiting for the game to end. Chill air ending September and leading into fall bussed with crickets, peep frogs, katydids, and toads. My lips would buzz, my mouth would buzz, my teeth would hold the mouthpiece firmly so it wouldn’t fall off my chin. Dad would look down at me hopping with both feet and smiled with his eyes.The little boy next to me and equal in size to me would be known as the brother with another mother. Dad winked at him. Brother to the stomp, the sousaphone little boy next to me had a grin the size of the Washington Monument. In the spirit of the Fire House Five, we wiggled and blew notes that were adorable and blessedly underlay the large horns playing. We were blissfully awful.
In Washington DC, children would disappear in the crowd and get lost by the vendors selling everything the eye of a child would desire. A popcorn, hot dog, sodas, or clothes. Everything was shiny and loud. We stood as a family in the afternoon sun and Theo would move around with his bright orange bucket.
“Here you go, ladies, help us get these kids to college in fifteen more years. They will need the money for Juilliard. Come on folks you love the sound. Can you imagine all this at a dollar each and more to come? Hey, man, impress your friend their with feet holding the ground and you dancing the dance of the music. Can you hear that sousaphone? He’s not playing for my benefit, We work hard practicing for our performance. We have trumpets, horns, tubas, a drummer, and we are a family band straight from DC for your enjoyment. We got all the permits and call those cops over for a bit of a dance, they look bored. Here we go again, listen to the Blues got Me from Memphis to Here.
The trumpets would slide into the song and I’d watch dad for my cue. Three years old and in love with sound, in love with my parents blues, and thinking I was all grown up, when the world was waiting for me to get my feet where I was big enough to have them touch the ground.
Two hours later, we had scored as much cash as we were going to.
Dad called out, “There’s enough here for the rent, food and electric. Get these two shortstop musicians an ice cream and we’ll meet back at the rooms. Any one got a need for cash, come see me.” Dad had an account in Ma. She took the totals from him, crunched the numbers, slid the bills between her fingers and put them in the ledger. No worries were to be had if the ledger was filled with numbers.