Friday, August 15, 2008

A small summer moment and a realization of privilege

banjo band at balboa park
We wandered towards the music. Balboa Park is full of surprises. As we came around the corner I could see the outdoor pavilion was full of people enjoying music on a summer evening. I recognized the music. Pic pic pic of banjoes, but there were more. Oboes and vocals and maybe a clarinet? The sea of white-hairs in the audience sitting in the waning summer sun moved a bit to the beat. I thought we might be the youngest people there. We sat for a moment.

The band was having fun. Really getting into it. Playing music, that while I didn't recognize nor know any of the songs, the rest of the audience certainly did. Feet were tapping, and a woman who must have been in her late 80's, danced in the front where the mosh pit would be. She wore a flower in her hair, and clapped her hands.

At one point, the band announced they were going to play a medley, and directed the audience to stand when their song came on. Were people picking their favorite song? Was it a contest? And then the band launched into a tune I somewhat recognized. I couldn't quite place it though. And all of a sudden 30 men in the audience, all in different places, stood up, very straight. The crowd applauded, and the men kept standing. Some clapped to the song, some looked around at the others standing, seeking a face they might recognize.

The song transitioned to another. This one I knew, too. But not by heart, and I didn't know the words. They weren't singing the words either, just playing the song. And the men sat down and others stood. This time, more men. More applause. I recognized the song as one I thought I remembered my mom singing. It was the Air Force theme song. And the band was playing a medley of armed forces songs: marines, army, navy, air force. I remembered or knew these songs from old movies I watched as a child. But with no familiarity in my current life.

The men who stood were being celebrated, thanked, hands were being shook, and the audience sometimes would clap along to the song. It was patriotism, honor and respect. I felt like I was in a movie. I don't experience these moments anywhere else. The soldiers fighting our wars? I don't see them nor attend events that celebrate them. I know no one who is currently serving in the armed forces. I didn't know how to respond at this concert. So I applauded along with the crowd, and enjoyed the summer evening. And was glad for a window into another world.


Unknown said...

There's a special place in my heart for Balboa Park. It's magical.

Ah yes, there would be just about every branch of the military represented there in San Diego.

A Lewis said...

I love those unannounced, spontaneous, unplanned moments in our lives. They seem to hold the greatest place.

CrackerLilo said...

For whatever reason, we just don't have a lot of military service in either of my families. We joke that one of my grandfathers served at the VFW (he did; he was a bartender at one), and the other served lonely wives and girlfriends left behind. So I tend to forget. I have to make myself remember.

All this is to say, I kinda relate.

Nulaanne said...

This reminds me that I am an old soul and feel that we have lost the ablity to thank those who serve. I think that we have somewhere lost the honnor and respect that those in the military deserve.

SassyFemme said...

The local symphony does the Armed Forces Medley at our 4th of July celebration. My heart always swells with pride when my wife gets to stand for the Air Force. Our daughter is also married to an AF serviceman (fighter pilot).