Of all the time on the 40 Acres, my time in band shines brightest. It was in this group that I made solid friends, worked together for a common goal, got to play my sax all the time, and, yes, attend football games for free. Well, I had to work the game, but I never had to buy a ticket.
It's been a dozen years since I last attended an alumni band weekend. The city has changed quite a bit in that span. For those of you who don't know what alumni band is, it's exactly like you think it sounds. We graduates from Longhorn Band return one home game a year to play our horns (or wave the flags), march up and down the field, and generally relive our college years in the span of a single day. It's fantastic and today, as I walked up to the band hall today, seeing those giant doors open, the sounds of conversation, laughter, and horns mingling together, the emotions swirling inside of me, I chided myself for not attending more.
What got me here this weekend was a combination of two things. One, the obvious: it's been twenty-five years since I started in band. The quarter century mark is a good time to take stock. Most people mark their 25th birthday as a milestone. It is important, but I contend that 25 years after you graduate from high school is a bigger milestone. At age 25, you will have only been our of your parents' house for, at most, seven years. Throw in college and, chances are, you've only been on your own by age 25 roughly three years.
Marking the anniversary of the 25th year since you left home is a more reasonable milestone. In this quarter century, I've had the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree. I've married a beautiful, intelligent woman, and we have a son. I've established a career for myself, and had a good time. Sure there were some ups and downs, but that's life. I regret none of the life experiences I've had, and I certainly don't regret the time I had with Longhorn Band. So it was that sentiment that pulled me here this weekend.
The other thing was the death of one of my fellow band members this past summer. Like me, this was his 25th summer since he graduated high school. Chris was one of the sax players with whom I joined band in the fall of 1987, and we experienced band life together. As can happen when folks move apart, it had been years since I spoke with Chris, but news of his passing struck me. As much as I claim that I've never grown up, that I'm an adult kid, the simple fact is that I *am* aging. I don't dwell on that fact because each day is a blessing of life, but those blessings add up. I live life with exuberance, relish, and a firm reality that each day that I wake up is a gift from God. Chris's death reminded me that I'm getting older and that I ought to do the things I want to do when I can because a day might arrive that I'm unable to do that which I want.
And, so, I'm marching tomorrow. It will commemorate my 25th anniversary of my first march to Memorial Stadium. I adore seeing all my fellow bandmates and sharing stories. I enjoy seeing the children of my friends as they stare at their parent(s) acting all goofy because, for one weekend a year, we can go back in time. And tomorrow, when we march on that field, with the stands full of Longhorn fans, I am going to cherish that particular joy I always got when I performed with the Longhorn Band. I will also say a prayer for Chris, as well, remembering how he looked as we marched together twenty five years ago. We miss you, and we'll never forget you.
Hook 'em Horns!