Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Birthday ramblings

I seem to be dwelling on the future birthday lately.   Maybe turning 71 does that to you.  And that is new to me - not just the turning 71, but the discussing of a birthday, mine.

My students - if they were really close to me - knew that I never talked about my birthday.  Most of the time I would tell everyone that it came in July - July 11 to be exact, my brother Jim's birth date.  I always could remember that date - wanted to appear like I could remember the date.  

Y'see, being a high school band director, I was usually on the marching field the first of November.   Students, bless their hearts, look for any way to short circuit a class.  If they can spring a birthday surprise on the teacher - then, all work stops for the day.  I can tell you that most marching bands are not interested in practicing the first week of November - we are tired of the field and wanna go inside - now.    [ won't even mention what 7th graders might do ]

So, I never talked about birthdays.  My wife never did - my children never did.  It was a family secret.  I have always appreciated their assistance in this matter.

A sidebar about being a kid....I could always remember my brother's birthdays - all 3 of them.  January 17 (Marshall),  July 11 (Jim), and April 6 (Pat).  Didja ever notice that?  When I was a kid I knew these dates so very well - and looked forward to them.  I could NOT tell you my own parent's birthdates...or, perish the thought, their anniversary.   Somehow we'd get these figured out in time to acknowledge them.  Never had any money to buy presents anyway.  so be it.  I do know those dates now though.    "Hey Mom, give me $2 so I can go buy you a cheap bottle of perfume for your birthday."

The "why" is so so simple.  You know your siblings birthdays because there will be presents, a cake, goodies - and possibly a small family party.  Contrary to today's youth, we didn't have birthday parties - at home or McDonalds ( there were NO McDonalds in my days of youthful splendor ).   Today's kids get birthdays and presents; they go to parties all the time.  It is, as if, to not have a birthday party would be as terrible as wearing non-designer jeans.  Poor babies.

BACK to band stuff.   When I taught in Amarillo one year - I learned a valuable lesson.  I smarted off that my birthday was April Fool's day.  It seemed like a good enough joke to me. 
KID:   "When is your birthday?"
MTZ:  "I was born on April Fool's Day, yuk yuk."
If you are paying attention, you should be one step ahead of me by now.

There I was on the podium, April 1st, doing what we do.     

"Listen to your neighbor; trombones find 5th position; quit talking; tune tune tune; stop rushing; look at me;  Drummers!!!;  clarinets use the alternate Bb;  that's F# you tone deaf ......"       

The door of the bandroom swung open and in romped a clown with balloons.  Lots of bbbaaaalllloooooooons.   He comes in singing Happy Birthday to "Ace."   It seems one of my students (I remember her name)   enjoyed that name because I called many folks "ace."  It was what I did.  "Howdy Ace."  "Whatcha doin' Ace?"  " Get your music Ace."    It is okay in a school setting to use the word "Ace"  while you are thinking  Donkey.  ( Nobody knows )  Anyway, in he bolts.   Class was disrupted.    I accepted the attention as best I could.   A boy, first chair alto, apparently had the nickname ACE from his friends.   He was up and about thinking someone was playing a joke on him -- that part is somewhat fuzzy in my memory - we do blot these things out at times.

Never again did I use April Fools Day.   I went back to July 11th and lived with it until the end.  Nobody ever came to my house on the 11th and broke up my rehearsal.  It was good.  So that's it.  Never talked about the actual birthdate or the actual age.   One more short stone.

In Ardmore - on my 30th birthday - I remember walking across the courtyard with a small group of students.  That was 1970 - or as we say - the seventies.... Hippies and the like.   The wad of students had no idea is was "the 30th" day.    The kids were all talking and laughing about the conventional saying of the time:  "Don't trust anyone over thirty."   That event made an impression on me ( apparently  )  to remember it for 40+ years.  I can't remember which students were there ... nor should I.  They didn't trust me.

I have spent my birthday - since retirement - with my wife and daughter Christine, most years.  The Houston Quilt show  ( a fabulous event - you should go ) is always during this weekend.  This year I have elected to stay home - take care of the dogs and save $200 boarding costs.  We are trying to save money in order to take a cruise next fall - it will be the 50th anniversary.  But, let us talk about that next fall.  See ya guys.

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