In Texas, football is king. But not just any football, high school football. Starting in August every year high school students across Texas start preparing for the upcoming seasons. Not just the actual football players, but also the band, cheerleaders, drill teams, and all of the other groups and teams that work to promote school spirit and support the local team.
For three years in high school I was one of those students. Starting in August I would get up early every morning, well early for a teenager, before it got too hot. I would head up to the school with the rest of the drill team and start learning and practicing routines. In our tennis shoes, shorts, and ponytails we would sweat and stretch and dance until our muscles ached.
5, 6, 7, 8… jump, step, kick, turn, split… and again, 5, 6, 7, 8… jump, step, kick, turn, split…
We would do it over and over again until we got it perfect. Every day, morning and afternoon. But then there would be that one day… Standing outside in the grass trying to avoid the fire ants with sweat trickling down my back I would hear it.
I could hear the drums from the marching band sounding in the distance. The heat would momentarily lift, and I would swear that I could smell the scent of fall leaves on the breeze. My chest would fill with anticipation of the season to come and all of the promise that it held. Practice always seemed a little easier after that.
The summer after I graduated I got married, and that August instead of waking early to stand in the heat I was sleeping late because I worked evenings. The next year I would be in college, that did not have a football team, and working. Time would go by and the years would add up and I would forget that feeling of anticipation and promise.
Some days it is hard for me to remember that it has been over 20 years since I stood on that field in the early morning sun with sweat trickling down my back. It seems impossible that so much time could have passed. Other days the heartache and loss from those years weighs on me and I feel the weight of every second of those years.
Nowadays I roll out of bed way earlier than what I considered early back then. I get dressed and put in a full day of work. When that day is over I shut off my computer, turn out the lights, and head down the elevator. I push my way out the door into the bright summer sun and start down the sidewalk to my car so I can head home to cook dinner, do laundry, and take care of children. That’s when I hear it.
The drums from the marching band at the high school a couple of streets over. In that moment the years fall away, my chest fills with anticipation and promise, my step is lighter, and I would swear that I could smell just the hint of fall leaves in the air.