Saturday, April 30, 2005

I have mentioned before that I marched in Drum and Bugle Corps for a number of years. I was in the Colour Guard. We spun rifles and flags around. During the winter we did indoor shows and competitions, where we would spin and toss our flags and rifles, march around, and dance to tape recorded music. We would travel together on a bus to whatever city was hosting the show. It was pretty great. The shows were always in high school gyms, so you would get there, and each guard was assigned a classroom. You would go in with your gymbag and your uniform bag and your rifle or flag and find a desk and sort of set up camp there for the day.

There would be a practice time for each guard so they could do a run through of their show and get to know the floor markings, where the judges would be sitting, etc. But other than that we were pretty much free to walk around, meet people from other guards, go to the cafeteria and eat (oh to be young again and be able to eat 4 or 5 ice cream bars without hesitation), or practice in the hallways. Or hang out and talk. Or see if there were any cute guys around (colour guards were 95% all girls, so this was an unlikely prospect, but you never knew).

One early spring day, during the last year I was in drum corps, we were in Cambridge, Ontario for a guard show. It was being held at an arena there, kind of outside of town. It was one of those gorgeous days, where you would tie your sweatshirt around your waist and the warm sun around you seemed to have a personality.

I was almost seventeen. And I had four best friends in drum corps. Sandy, Kim, Anne, and Jenny. We had been marching together for years. We had been on tours together, slept in gyms together, cried together about mean boys and dropped rifles and a ton of other stuff.

And we had laughed. Oh, we had some good times. Like on tour the summer before this we were in the States, and we realised after the first day that you got a deposit back for pop cans. And everyone was buying pop after pop because it was summer and we worked so hard practicing in the field and it was American pop so it was exciting. Well, we five took the pillowcases off of our pillows and went around picking up everyone's pop cans. One or two people kind of caught on to what we were doing and said to me and Jenny, hey, are you going to get money for those. Jenny looked them right in the eye and said, "No. We are taking them home to do a melting pop of America sculpture."

Man, we laughed so hard retelling that story over and over. Our corps travelled with two buses and an equipment truck. All the kids would be on one bus, and all the gym bags and sleeping bags and other stuff we needed would be on the other bus, which had no seats. For this tour there were not enough seats on the 'people bus' so the five of us volunteered to go on the gym bag bus. It was so great. We just hung out on top of all the stuff, all the pillows and sleeping bags we wanted were there for our use. We were a bit wicked too. We snooped in people's gymbags to see what they brought. We discovered that Maureen Frehe, who told the planet that she had naturally blonde hair, had SUN IN in her bag.

It was great. And when we had collected FIVE pillowcases of empty pop cans we did a covert trip to a store. We weren't allowed to leave the group per se, so we had to sneak away for a half hour and run to the nearest store. I can still see Anne ahead of me, terrified, looking back to see if we had been spotted, her pink and white flowered pillowcase bulging with pop cans, slung over her shoulder. I can still feel that rush of adrenaline, knowing we had made it without getting caught. We got 31 dollars for all those cans! And we spent EVERY cent on candy and junk food at that store. It was the best. The five of us whippig from aisle to aisle, yelling to each other, "CHOCOLATE POP TARTS!" "YES!" "BARBECUE CORN CHIPS!" "TOTALLY!" "THEY HAVE WHATCHAMACALLITS!" "WOOO HOOO!"

On the fifteen hour bus ride to the next city, we lounged on the sleeping bags, passing bags of chips and cookies to each other, and talking, talking, laughing, talking.

All my friends were taller than me. Sandy was long legged and thin, with braces. Kim was even taller, like five foot ten, and super skinny, with strawberry blonde hair, braces too. Anne was a great looking black girl, with the best legs, and to this day the heartiest laugh I ever heard. Jenny was a pink and white skinned red head.

The following spring we marched Winter Guard together. We were all growing up. We all went to different high schools (except Sandy and Kim).

So. On this early spring day, in Cambridge, we got to this arena. We set up our stuff in our assigned room, and then walked back outside because it was so beautiful out. We walked past the parking lot and there was a little ravine. With a creek.

Now. I have always been a sucker for a creek. I am drawn to them, I can watch water flow over rocks for hours.

This was not a large creek, maybe five or six feet across. We got to it and jumped across it, squatted down and let the water run over our fingers. Cold! We walked along it, two of us on one side, three on the other, until we came to a bend. The creek turned there and then sloped down a small incline, where the ravine went deeper. It was so early in spring. There were tiny buds on the trees, but nothing else. The ground was covered with last years discarded leaves, dark brown and damp.

The creek was full of stones. At the bend there was an old tree stump on one side, and the water flowed around it. And this gave me an idea.

"Hey." I said. "We could move that tree stump down there and build a dam."

So we did. Nobody questioned why we would want to do this. Not one of us thought it was a stupid idea. We just got to work, with our sweatshirts around our waists, and our tennis shoes on, and made a dam.

We dragged the tree stump down a few feet to where the ground levelled off. Then we piled up rocks across the rest of the creek. Then we dug with our hands into the cold water to make a deeper area for the water to pool in. We would stand back and look at our work, see where water was still escaping, and fill in the cracks. We used sticks and handfuls of mud. We hardly talked, except to say, "Use this" or "Found a stick", or "That works".

We worked hard. We worked together. We all felt the same urgency to build that dam. We forgot about the guard show, about school, about whatever guys we might have been into at the time. We just built the dam.

Finally, we stood up, (I am sure not one of us rubbed our lower backs and groaned like we might today) and looked at our beautiful work. It was magnificent. The creek ended where we had put the stump and rocks, widened to twelve or so feet into a wonderful cool pool of clear water. We smiled at each other. We knew that it wouldn't last. That eventually the water would trickle beyond the borders that we had made. But it was okay. We had done what we started out to do. We had stopped that water, for a while.

We had stopped time, for a while.

"Hey! You guys!"

Our reverie was broken. 13 year old Julie McCahon was standing above us, looking at us strangely.

"Everyone is looking for you! What are you doing?"

We just looked at each other. And laughed. And walked back to the arena. We were filthy. And wet. And we had missed our practice time. None of us cared.

The following summer would be the last time any of us marched drum corps. It was a great summer. But I will always remember that day at the creek, building that dam, as the last time we were together in that special way.

Looking back, I can see the metaphor. That creek, it was our youth. It was our friendship. It was the power we held, as girls about to be women. And we worked so hard, making the water stop there. Making everything stay just the way it was, all the while knowing it was futile. That nothing stays the way it is.

But together, we held things in place for an afternoon. And this is how I hold that memory. How I hold all memories. You build a little dam around them and you live in the moment and you forget everything else but this.

And then this is yours to keep. Forever.

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This is a picture of some of us just before going on tour. The year is 1986. On the left, is my sister Siobbhan, then Tricia Avon, then Michelle Massicote, then me, then Michelle Matthews, then Sandy (then Sandy's braces, haha). Anne is in front of us, she is holding up a homemade banner. It reads, "Sandy, Kim, Jenny, Anne, Amy."



At 11:15 PM, Blogger Squirl said...

That was a really nice story. Very philosphical summing up of your coming of age. I enjoyed it.

I also like the line "We are taking them home to do a melting pop of America sculpture"

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Aim. I love seeing pictures of you when you were that young. I was 2, I wonder if you had even met me then.
I keep trying to write blogs but by the time im finished, the page is conked out and I loose everything.


At 11:58 PM, Blogger Bente said...

Very nice, reminded me of the show, 'The Wonder Years'.

At 12:49 AM, Anonymous mrtl said...

Awesome story, Amy!

At 9:33 AM, Blogger KC said...

Do you ever wish you could go back? I mean, not permanently - but for a day or so. Knowing what you do now?

I SO totally would. I have great memories of high school - what I can remember anyway (I was a bad girl).

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous lawbrat said...

Very nice story. When you write, I feel like I'm there, living it. Your very talented. Thanks for writing.

At 11:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always amazed at your ability to recall such vivid detail! Cool!

At 3:41 AM, Blogger Christèle said...

You made me cry, and laugh, and every time I go to your blog, I know I will find something that will uplift me. And I wish, o I wish I had such memories of school days, and friends, and activities together... I just don't, and I have to live with it (or, more precisely, without it...) But thank you so much for sharing those. And I loved the pictures of your two small ones playing with cereals...

At 4:07 PM, Blogger jules said...

Which drum corps? I taught with one for some winter camps one year, but couldn't go on sumer tour with them because I had to work and they were only offering $400 for the whole summer. I also taught with a marching band for nearly 12 years. I think it takes a certain kind of person to be involed int hose kinds of things. It says a lot about you. rock on with your bad self!


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