On September 26, our oldest son, Kelly, celebrated his 17th birthday. This is the last birthday he'll celebrate with us as a high school student living at home. I'm sure that next year when he turns 18 as a college freshman we will celebrate with him... whether he comes home or we go to wherever he is... but it won't be the same. That's not necessarily a sad thing, but it is a reality, and I think by acknowledging that reality it's helping me really soak in the beauty of these "lasts" with him, as well as preparing me for the changes that are ahead.
(Kelly's newborn photo & Senior Picture)
We celebrated the day of his birth by following the marching band that both he and his younger brother participate in to a competition in Louisville, KY. Which leads me to another of the "First Lasts"... Kelly's last high school marching band season.
(Kelly and his younger brother, Eli, at state marching band competition)
To say that marching band has consumed much of his life (and ours!) over the past four years would be an understatement. But despite all the time involved, all the frustration that inevitably comes with working so closely for so long with the same people, and all the sore lips, aching backs, and ruined pairs of shoes, the lessons learned from being a part of a marching band are tremendous. Kelly changed schools between his 8th grade and freshman year. It was a choice he made... something he wanted... but it was still a scary time to leave the place he'd been since kindergarten and move to a place where he knew very few people. The marching band season begins before the school year does, with two weeks of band camp in the stifling heat of July. Sounds awful, right? In many ways it is. It's certainly not the "fun" part of marching band. But for Kelly, that first year, band camp helped him find a group... a tribe... a whole host of people who were like him. When school started, even though he was the new kid, he had friends. Like I said, over four years there's a lot of teenage angst and drama that goes on when you spend so much time with the same group of people, but that same group of people worked together, succeeded together, failed together, and grew together. That kind of bond is rare and priceless, and it's something I'm so glad he experienced.
(Senior band members & their director after winning the Midstates Band Association
CHAMPIONSHIP in Dayton, Ohio - Kelly is 3rd from the left on the back.)
(Kelly's solo, which turns into a duet... this was the
FINAL time he performed it!)
He may never march another step in college... or he may decide it's something he wants to do as a part of his college years. Whatever he decides, I'm so thankful for the lessons he learned from being a part of his school's band program. Although I teared up a bit during the final time he played his solo, I didn't cry when his last marching season was over... I celebrated that for four years he was a part of something bigger than himself, something that taught him so much. And then I celebrated having my Saturdays back!