by Jamie A. Hughes
On summer afternoons, as the sun goes down and the sky turns periwinkle, my husband and I like to sit on the back porch to read and enjoy the soothing white noise of chirping cicadas and tweeting birds. But toward the end of July, those noises are overtaken by the sound of the nearby high school marching band practicing a new show. Sometimes, we recognize a trending pop song, something from a Broadway musical, or the latest treacly concoction from Disney—but more often, the music is an unfamiliar geography of sound for us to savor.
“Do you ever miss it? Being in band, I mean?” he asked one night as we listened to the band run the same sixteen measures of “Shakedown”—the Bob Seger tune featured in Beverly Hills Cop II—over and over again. (Oh yes, the 80s are back, and I’m not quite sure how to feel about it.) I have to admit that some small part of me does miss marching, even though I haven’t stepped on a field in nearly twenty years.
I miss mastering the difficult tunes, memorizing drill, and pushing myself to do both even more perfectly with each passing run. I miss the camaraderie and the thrill of feeling a show come together. We talked about our favorite moments in the Blazin’ Brigade, the college marching band where we met in 1997. But somewhere in all the reminiscing, reality crept in. We remembered standing for hours with the hot Georgia sun beating down on us. Sweating in heavy uniforms. Enduring bug bites and busted lips and leg cramps. And all of the sudden, sitting on the porch with a cold drink in hand listening to a marching band felt like the better end of the deal.
Wayne and I are both in our 40s now, and though we’re hardly senior citizens, we both recognize that marching band is a young person’s pursuit. Still, we still get a kick out of going to football games on Friday nights and sitting in the stands. Having been on the field for so many years, concerned only with playing the notes and hitting our marks in each formation, we never really got the chance to sit back and watch it all happen. From a higher vantage point, we can experience something we love in a new way, and though some part of me aches to be down there, watching it is also delightful.
Our culture tells us to dread aging, to fight it with this exercise or that diet or these pills. We fear being weak and left behind, and so we bemoan our aching joints and the fact that we have to put our phones on a selfie stick to read the screen. But worrying about our age is about as stupid as trying to punch the ocean. No, we can’t do challenging physical things that once came easily, but we get a pretty rad gift with each passing decade too—a truer perspective, a fuller and more thorough understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. We forty-plus folks have learned to number our days and gained a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12).
For instance, in 1996, I watched the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic games in Atlanta. It was amazing to see the marching band work on an unlined field to create the well-known interlocking rings and other compilcated patterns, all while playing “Bugler’s Fanfare” and “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” written by the great John Williams. Like a true band nerd, I taped both shows to watch them on repeat and study the patterns, trying to see how each flowed to the next. Eventually, I got it all sussed; however, I was ignorant of a greater design at work. One of the 360 people on that field—a tall, blonde, and rather dishy trombone player to be precise—was my future husband. We would meet on the verdant field in front of West Hall one year later.
But God knew. At that moment, as always, he was orchestrating something so much greater than I ever imagined. That’s the best part about getting older—being able to look back over longer swaths of time and see how his righteous right hand was (and is) at work. It’s a continual source of jaw-dropping amazement to me, a perpetual reason for gratitude.
Unlike my perspective, though it continues to develop and sharpen with each passing year, his has always been perfect. Thankfully, the day is coming when I will fully understand, and I am looking forward to it, yearning for it in a way the twenty-year-old version of myself could never fathom. “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” the apostle Paul tells us, “but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). All my golden yesterdays tarnish when compared to that glorious moment, and I can’t quite make myself pine for the past knowing that it’s in my future.
Jamie A. Hughes is the managing editor of In Touch Magazine in Atlanta, Georgia. She has written for Christianity Today, CT Women, Ink & Letters, You Are Here Stories, Fathom Magazine, Comment Magazine, and Restoration Living. Follow her on Twitter or read more on her blog.
Cover photo by Katrina Berban on Unsplash
Jamie, this warms my band geek heart, but even more compelling to me is your gorgeous way of making me glad that I can look back over this following life and understand a few things better than I did when they were front and center, and this perspective does seem to be the great gift of the aging process.
“But God knew.” The older I get, the more these three words push me to trust, to believe that God’s plans are for my good (even though they might look pretty terrible to me at the time). I’ve take a few swings at the ocean, I have to admit, but each year brings a bit more acceptance and much more gratefulness at how God has written my story so far. Thank you for sharing this beautiful perspective!