It’s 3:42 am and I can’t sleep, so here’s a story for you guys.
Have I ever told y’all about the wildflower in my knee brace?
It’s the icon to my personal so I decided I’d tell y’all the story behind it. It is my most vivid memory from my rookie year.
We were in Pueblo, the butthole of Colorado, two weeks before tour started. I was already injured by then. My right knee was double its size and it hurt like a bitch. Kenton, one of the drum majors, gave me this kneebrace in Brighton, a few days after it first popped out of place.
The ensemble field was set at the base of a hill. There was a baseball field on top of the hill, and a game was going on, all the while we’re doing reps; some air, some full out. So, some curious bystanders from the game decided to watch us rehearse. There was a low wall separating the field from the hill, and I was sitting on it, icing my knee and praying that I was just being a bitch, and that this feeling was something I could walk off.
I was sitting on the wall when I noticed a little girl watch me. She saw I looked worried. I looked away and sat and watched ensemble go right on without me, and I feel a small tap on my shoulder. I look back, and it’s the girl — must have been about 6 or 7, with straight blonde hair and pretty brown eyes — holding a small white flower in an outstretched palm. Her parents warned her to come back to them but I immediately broke into a smile at the sight, so they just stopped and stared at the scene unfolding.
"This is for you." She had a small voice. She was shy, but she cared. "I hope you feel better."
I thanked her, and put the flower in my knee brace. “I’ll keep it here so I feel better.” She smiled.
She sat with me and I taught her some of my horn moves and choreography from the show. I let her hold my horn as she did the choreo and I swear the look on her face told me I just sparked a dream inside her. I had planted a seed to be grown by music and performance.
I was sitting near Kenton at the time. There was little space between the wall and the field, so the drum majors were positioned on the hill. I sat out by Kenton a lot that summer, because he was the side one major. I pointed to him. “Wanna try conducting?” I said to my new friend. He smiled and the girl immediately started waving her arms to and fro, as the corps was playing a full out chunk, and I could see this seed take its roots and grow in her. “Hey Kent, better watch out. She’ll be taking your place soon!” I said. The girl was practically on cloud 9.
All of this happened within a few minutes. I hate sitting out. I had to go back to rehearsal. I told her goodbye, and carefully donned my knee brace with the flower inside.
I got up, and said one last thing to her. “You should be a Blue Knight too someday! Or at least march drum corps.”
"I want to," she said. "I want to be just like you."
I was almost jumping back into ensemble but I knew I couldn’t because then I would’ve really fucked myself up. Her words hit me like a train. This is the impact that I had.
During ensemble, I’d glance at the crowd, and she was there, flapping her arms with Kenton and mimicking my horn moves and choreo at the appropriate spots. During the runthrough, I would watch Kenton when I was on side one, and I could see her right behind him, pointing to me. “Look! She’s marching!” I could almost hear her say.
I had to leave immediately after rehearsal was over for the day. I desperately needed painkillers and sleep.
That night I sat in my bed and thought about my future — not just for the summer with BK, but my life. I knew I wasn’t going to allow myself to go home; I’m too stubborn and had already sacrificed so much to get there. This summer was going to be hard, but it could also leave serious permanent affects, and it did. The entire summer of 2013 was a worry fest: worried I looked weak in front of my family, worried I’d be fucked for the rest of my life, worried I wasn’t good enough, worried that I’d cost my parents more money in surgery that could’ve been prevented if I hadn’t picked up a damn horn years ago.
But the only reason I do what I do — why so many of us do this — is to plant that seed. This girl wanted to be just like me. Whether she still thinks about that day in Pueblo or forgot about me entirely, I played a role in her life. I opened this door to a world of pain and music and passion and discipline and performance. I was scared that season. So scared. But even after the flower was blown away by wind the next day and for the rest of the season, I carried that memory with me. Held on to it for my life. It’s how I thrived in drum corps, despite barely being able to keep up.
I still think about that girl sometimes. I wonder how she’s doing. I wonder if she’ll ever realize the kind of impact she made on me that summer.