Monday, September 16, 2013

Never Can Say Goodbye

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." - L.P Hartley, qtd by Craig Ferguson
Ever since I marched snare drum for Jacksonville High School and heard the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners play for the first time, I've been in love.  The rest of the drumline laughed at me when I said that I would go to JSU and march in the Southerners after high school graduation.  I was so taken with the prospect that I gave a up a band scholarship from Alabama A&M.  In 1990, I realized my dream of being in the Southerners.  However, I was in the Pit (what they now call "Auxiliary Percussion"), which wasn't bad, but my parts was very limited.  For several shows, I only had one note on a siren whistle, but I was just happy to be there. 
In 1991, I planned to play again and even went through band camp and practices, but dropped out before the first game.  Schoolwork, a band director (among others) who didn't know his butt from a hole in the ground, and other circumstances gave me pause.  No blood, no foul.
During the spring semester of 1992, the colorguard coordinator (I will not reveal his name to protect the guilty) offered a class for anyone who wanted to learn to spin and eventually march in the fall.  Heck yeah; let's do it!  I took the class and did very well.  I learned different spins and tosses.  It was slow going at first and I did break a light in the practice room once, but I did eventually catch on and got up to doing 1 1/2 and double tosses.  When spring session was over, Mr. Coordinator said that I had done well and that as long as I practiced during the summer to keep what I'd learned fresh, I should have no problem at tryouts during band camp.  I practiced as much as I could, so, by the time band camp started, I was ready.
I did every spin I knew.  Gave single, 1 1/2, and double tosses; moved, grooved, and dropped it like it was hot (well as hot as I could).  I was chosen for the an alternate.  An alternate is a fancy name for a gofer in a guard uniform.  In other words, an alternate pays for the equipment and uniforms to make it LOOK like she's in the guard, but really isn't.   There would be no spinning, no jazz runs, no nothing.  I could very well understand many of the others in the class being chosen over me-- many were not beginners and could spin sabre and riffle.  What I couldn't understand was why Mr. Coordinator chose little girls fresh out of high school who hadn't taken the class and DID NOT EVEN KNOW HOW TO SPIN.  When he asked them to toss, they threw the flag in the air, ran away from it, and let it fall to the ground.  Seriously?  Yes, seriously!
When I confronted him about it, Mr. Coordinator's answer was that although my spins and tosses were on the mark, he didn't like how my body looked.   Say what?  It looked the same as it looked when I was taking the class, which wasn't a problem then.  Yes, I was very large, but I knew what I was doing!  Good grief!

OK, OK, I've been here before; having to fight my way into something.  So, I thought, Go ahead, make me an alternate.  I'll hang around and keep working at it, and keep showing you that I am good enough.  You'll have no choice but to put me in.  Nothing was going to stop me, until....

A few days later, we were sent to be fitted for our custom made uniforms.  The way it worked was that the people making the uniforms worked as a team.  One would measure and call out the measurements to the others who would trace out the construction for each individual's uniform.  This seemed to work well, until they got to my measurements. My 29 inch inseam was no problem, it sounded normal.  But they got to my 56 inch waist and lost their flippin' minds.  The lady taking the measurements said, "Oh honey, I'll just write the rest of yours down and give it to them so you won't be embarrassed."  Embarrassed?  I was in the freakin' Marching Southerners!  I had every reason to be proud that they even let me in the same room with them  She took the measurements over to ones drawing it out.  Let's just say the scene wasn't pretty.  There was a lot of head scratching, cussing, and giving me the "go to the bad place" look.  It shut down the whole operation.  Then it hit me; the embarrassment wouldn't have just been on me, the guard and all of the Marching Southerners organization would be very embarrassed if I went through with this.  It became painfully clear that Mr. Coordinator was right to be concerned.  After we got back to campus, I went to the band office and resigned,  I went back to my dorm room, flopped down on bed, and cried myself to sleep.  I never attempted to be a part of the Southerners again, not even when I went to graduate school.  In fact, until I got into recovery a few years ago and did some deep soul searching, I had completely blocked that whole period of time from my mind--like it never happened.

Over the years, there had been many opportunities for me to go to games, participate in reunions, and  see the awesome halftime shows, but I couldn't do it.  Too painful.  The pain is not just in what happened, but why it happened and the fact that I gave up and never tried again.  That's not me.  Even after a situation is clearly dead, I'll keep plodding on hoping to resurrect it.  This was so different, though.  The other times I had to fight, it was because of things I couldn't change;  I couldn't change my race or gender.  I couldn't hide my eyesight problems.  But this?  This I could change, wanted to change, ached to change, but didn't. 

I finally went to a Jacksonville State University game a week ago--their first home game.  During the game, I was happy; we were winning.  Halftime was absolute torture.  Everything in my mind screamed Why?  Why did you quit?  Why didn't you fight?  Why didn't you get ahold of your health and lose the weight?  Why can't you ever be good enough?  You could make yourself good enough if you just tried.  See the girl in the front tossing a double?  That should have been YOU 20 years ago!  You're only 41; If you'd get your butt in gear, maybe...  And on and on it went until I thought my head would explode.  I wanted to run, cry, upchuck, and die all at the same time. 

So, what do I do now?  I'm not sure.  Throughout my recovery, I've tried to let this go, to move on, to put stock in a bright future, and let the tormenting memories die, and this time, stay dead.  But I have been unsuccessful. I believe that this is unfinished business for which I need to make amends to myself and to the Marching Southerners.  I need closure.  But how?


  1. Unfinished business & closure... Those are tough to achieve... Prayers for you as you process the hurt and find healing!

  2. I PRAY that God will ease your pain!!! You've struggled and worked hard your whole life. You've always fought the good fight. People involved in that were ignorant asses. Period. You deserved far better than you got. I wish I could change it, but...I care about you and pray for YOUR well being.

  3. I'd be proud to be beside you on the field. You've accomplished so much. I pray that you'll get that closure you need.