It was a quintessential American moment. My son and his classmates filed into their high school gymnasium as the school band played “Pomp and Circumstance.” I quickly spotted my son among the sea of red caps and gowns. I’d recognize his familiar gait anywhere. I was overcome with so many emotions at once. Pride, exuberance, nostalgia, uncertainty, and love all jumbled together. I was thankful the familiar graduation anthem was there to ground me. Then I caught a glimpse of my son’s easy smile, and I felt comforted. Even though I have to send him off to college in a few short months, his smile assured me everything was going to be okay.
I scanned the red sea again, searching for a few specific faces. One, two, three…I quickly found each of the boys that formed a classic rock band with my son during their freshman year of high school. Three of the band members have been friends since kindergarten. All of them are talented. They performed publicly a few times that first year and the fact they chose the state’s largest residential facility for severely developmentally disabled adults as the location of their first gig speaks volumes about the kind of kids they are. When they played My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade” in the school talent show that year, it was a game-changer. I am embarrassed to admit I never heard the song before. In contrast, the high school kids in the audience recognized the song a few notes in and were visibly excited. The band gave it their all and when they transitioned from the song’s slow to fast tempo, the audience went wild singing and dancing. It was both amazing and surreal to watch because the band was comprised of my kid and his friends. Suddenly, they were cool…way cooler than I had ever been in high school. Hearing teenage girls go on about how “f#@king hot” they were, was really awkward.
Over the course of the next four years, the band was invited to play at numerous school functions, local town events, fundraisers, restaurants, and even bars. Each and every time they brought their A game, a combination of talent, boundless energy, confidence, professionalism, crowd-pleasing enthusiasm, humor, and good ol’ fun. They weren’t four individual musicians playing on a stage; they molded themselves into a cohesive unit. They practiced religiously and the band mom who fed four teenage boys mid-practice every Tuesday night should probably be sainted. They may have started out as bandmates, but along the way they became brothers. They even wrote and produced two albums of original songs and distributed them on iTunes, Amazon, and other music platforms. Not bad for four high school kids, right?
While I am so proud of all they achieved musically, I am just as proud of how they have grown individually and learned from each other along their journey. They are each salt of the earth great guys. They are solid students and good citizens. They didn’t always agree as a band, but they valued each other enough to figure out how to compromise. They celebrated each other’s individual successes and leaned on each other in harder times like relationship breakups and college rejections. They have unique personalities and fall at different ends of the political spectrum. I love that they can respectfully discuss politics, listen to each other’s dissenting views, and try to understand them. I wish more people in our country could do the same.
I am just so grateful that my son navigated the high school years with his bandmate brothers by his side. They are all heading in different directions after high school. Two will leave Connecticut and two will remain in state. They’ll explore different majors in college, including music production, filmmaking, political science, and computer hardware engineering. I can’t predict the future, but I’m certain each will do amazing things. I’m also certain they will always have each other’s backs and never forget this magical time they spent making music together. I’m sure I speak for all the band parents when I say it has been an absolute pleasure to watch these guys grow and shine. My heart truly swells with pride and love for each of them, not just the one I gave birth to. I will heartily root for them as they make their way through life.
So now that their band days are coming to a close, I do have a confession to make. My morning alarm has been set to one of the band’s original songs for the past few years. I realize that makes me sound like the most vomit-worthy parent groupie. I decided it will remain my morning wake-up call after the boys leave for college because it will make me smile and remember these incredible boys in the band. Hardly a bad way to start the day, right?