Family Heirlooms

When you’re eleven years old you don’t realize you’re living through one of those moments that’s going to impact the rest of your life.  You don’t see at the time that this one little seemingly insignificant event is going to play an important role in shaping you.  But it does.

The night that my older cousin, David, gave me his clarinet was one of those moments.  It was no big deal to anybody else, but even now there’s an eleven year old girl inside me who treasures sitting next to David on his white trundle bed in his bedroom that she thought was the coolest, while he carefully took his clarinet, piece by piece, out of the case and showed me how to put it together.  He showed me how to moisten the reed by holding it in your mouth while you’re putting the rest of the instrument together and then how to attach it to the mouthpiece. David taught me to put cork grease on the cork bands  – to put bore oil on an oversized pipe cleaner to run through the inside of the horn so that the wood wouldn’t get dry and crack.  And he gave me his spit rag – a piece of chamois cloth tied to a leather string with a piece of metal on the end that you run through it after you finish playing to dry out the spit.

gotta love the hair (1974)

For the next ten years of my life I took that horn out of its case almost every day, put it together just like David taught me and made music just like he had. And because of that clarinet, I had a place to belong.  In places I might have had trouble fitting in otherwise.

Yes, I was a band nerd.  And I’m proud of that.

The validation the eleven year old girl in me received that night from David was huge.    Granted, cherished family heirlooms aren’t usually clarinets, unless you’re Pete Fountain or Benny Goodman, but you go with what you’re given.  And choosing to give me that clarinet – spending time with me to teach me how to use it – had the same effect as Esau receiving his father’s blessing, because for an all-too-brief moment a little girl got to feel special and valued by one of the men in her family.  One who shared her growing love of music.  One who was patient and gentle and kind.  Neither of us had a clue at the time just how big that would be, but it was.

Funny how I always felt connected to David through that horn.   I’m just sorry that I didn’t get to tell him.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Heather Alkire says:

    I didn’t know you played clarinet! That’s something we have in common! 🙂 Thanks for sharing these sweet thoughts!!!

  2. cara shiu says:

    Love this one Sally!….and so very glad to have shared that part of our lives together in college. Bingiee talks about when we all marched he looked like a big purple q-tip…makes me smile!!~

  3. Summer says:

    Ha! You look like a clarinet player! I’m so surprised we didn’t know each other at school…though I was never a Gata Girl, I was in the Big Purple, albeit a few years behind you and over in the trumpet section 🙂

  4. i was a clarinet player too…wonderful band memories at J. Frank Dobie High School, Pasadena, Texas….and band was where alison and justin met…great memories there too and oh, I can’t forget daniel and i met while we were in the Blinn College Band, Brenham, TX….smile!!

  5. Brenda Foster says:

    And that clarinet was used to entertain many people through the years, whether it was the Big Purple or half time at a GATA game. I am a very proud Band nerd myself and I often talk about my first band director. She taught me to play clarinet and was the first person to recognize my ability to sing in harmony. Just today, I was talking to my students about her. Unfortunately, she will never know the impact she had on my life. Glad you and I both played clarinet. It was the beginning of a great fun friendship.
    Love you, girl!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Sally, you look so adorable!!!

  7. Debbie Johnson says:

    Oh, my goodness, does this bring back memories! You look so grown up in your Barwise Band Uniform. It’s hard to believe that we were only in 8th grade. My mother STILL talks about how we “marched” at halftime at 8th grade football games.

    1. sallygary says:

      Yes! Remember the time you and Amy and I put peanut shells in Laura Henry’s gloves before halftime…..and I look so innocent in that uniform!

  8. PeggyCorder says:

    I knew we had a kinship! I played Clarinet in Junior High and High School. In fact, that is how I met Tollie. He played trumpet. We were both band nerds! Thank you so much for being so transparent and letting us see that little girl in the grown up Sally! You are such a special person and I know God is doing special works in you! Thanks for being you!

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