Five years after I moved into this house a new high school was built to serve students who live in this area. The school is about a mile from my home by car or half a mile as the crow flies. I rarely think about the school unless I'm going there to vote (it's my polling place) or I happen to pass it at a time of day when the school-zone speed limit is in effect.
In autumn, though, Friday nights often make me aware of the school's proximity. Even with the windows closed I can hear the band playing. Not the whole band, really, just the drums. The heartbeat of the band. If I step outside, I can sometimes hear the football crowd, its roar reduced to a whisper by the time it reaches my ears. Levi and Gimpy, with their far superior hearing, cock their heads in the direction of the distant sounds, then begin to bark at them.
Those sounds excite me in their familiarity. I never cared much about football games, but I liked our high-school boys in their padded uniforms and helmets, and I loved the energy of the crowds that cheered for them. Sitting high up in the bleachers with my friends, the cool fall air kissing our cheeks with promises of relief from East Texas's scorching late summer days, I felt like I belonged there. Almost.
When the sounds of 2012's home games waft through the Friday-night air, vivid memories come flooding back. I still remember the words to some of the cheers we chanted. I remember how much I loved the trumpet solo when the band played "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White." Good memories, all of those, with good feelings accompanying them.
Then another memory surfaces and I think about the fact that once in a while, even as I clapped my hands and stomped my feet in rhythm with the rest of the fans in that stadium, I wondered how it was possible to feel so alone in the middle of all those people. Funny. Even that darker memory feels no worse than bittersweet after such a long time.
It's odd how a cluster of barely audible sounds have the power to transport a person from a current Friday night to other ones more than fifty years earlier. I smile when I think about the kids in that nearby stadium tonight. They have no idea how long these fall football games will stick with them.