Uncle Sam Jams

Sticky-handed kids with patriotic light sabers fence with mosquitoes and each other as they encircle the bandstand. They form a mote of imagination around us as their parents relax in folding chairs a few yards off. This year an eighty-year old man in an American flag cape, Uncle Sam hat, & long red underwear is wandering around the field. The kids continue their battle and ignore him.

Their soundtrack includes the heroic movie music of John Williams, stock marches of John P. Sousa, and patriotic medleys stemming from the post-civil war era. T-minus two hours ‘til the fireworks shoot off, and sixty-five of us sit in our musical chairs watching for the next downbeat. And the next. We double-check each tune by looking over the shoulder of the section in front of us to see what they put up on their stands – oh it’s Disney at the Movies, not Disney at the Oscars (cue a quick switch as the first four measures of the piece fly by followed by a game of catch-up). The horns occasionally go on an anti-offbeat strike.

My section-mates, Norm & John.

A mom walks her kid over to me during a short break and whispers, “what instrument is that?” Then afterward, our soundtrack is an animated round of fireworks as we busily tear down the stage. The light-saber-toting kids are curled up in their parents’ chairs, hands over ears, and they add a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. Strapping on the horn, I catch a glimpse of the colorful sky and head toward the car to avoid post-firework traffic.

This is the image of my Independence Day since I began playing 17 years ago.


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