Remembering How To Fly….My Return to Neverland

Sometimes it takes a smack upside the head with a two X four to get my attention.  Sometimes that two X four has to have a giant spike at the end of it too.  But other times it is not as simple as that.  Other times it is a subtle, gentle reminder that overtakes your mind while driving your car down a dark country road on a warm summer night.  It is that type of smack that is perhaps the most powerful of all.

As I spend the summer on the road teaching for the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy® I have had a few moments questioning how long I can keep doing this.  My left knee is in constant pain and always swollen despite meds and ice / elevation.  Yes it had only been 5 months since surgery and it is only now that my right knee is feeling normal after two YEARS post-op….but it is the limitations I have been experiencing physically that have made me question my longevity.  Is it truly conceivable that I can keep this up “forever?”

The other day I had the privilege of doing an interview with Larry Nagengast from Delaware’s magazine “Out & About” (article coming out in the September issue) about my FIRST 18 years here at UD.  Frankly I told him far more than I should have because, well….he’s a former UDMB Band Parent, and in truth, there really are no secrets in this business.  biggrin.  We talked about how I got to UD, where I was before I got here, the evolution of the program, how we keep it going year after year, and then an interesting turn: we talked about legacy.

Last year, after the passing of my dear friend George Parks, that word, legacy, made it’s first appearance as part of my regular vocabulary.  “A gift that one leaves behind that becomes a responsibility to pass on to others.”  This is what I told all the students who attended the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy® workshops last summer, and I continue to tell them the same thing this summer…but there’s a new part to it now.  Legacy is about “knowing where you came from to know where you’re going.”  I have always believed this.  One’s journey is defined by one’s past.  The path set before us is unknown, and while we do not know what we will encounter along the way, our past has already created the foundation upon which we will construct our future.  It is not emptiness we stand before, but rather a partially built highway that we will complete as we press forward.

This past spring a dear colleague came up to me following the Symphonic Band concert.  She was clearly moved by the group’s performance, as was I.  Her words will always resonate with me for I believe she was right–it was during that concert that I learned how to fly again.  She said, and I paraphrase: “You’ve been through so much these last two years and all of it was in that concert, so much emotion.  But the last piece, THAT was when Heidi started to come back.”  You were right Eileen–that was the defining moment of me remembering how to fly, and I will always be grateful that you noticed….for it takes someone who has walked along the same path, who has faced the same challenges life brings, to truly understand another person’s world.

Over the years I would say to George that I didn’t know how much longer I would teach DMA.  He would always say, “Heidi, you’ll always do one more.” And we, of course, laughed.  …and he, as usual, was always right: I always found a way to “do one more.”  But this summer has taken its toll already as I struggle to stand up each morning.  And yes, I know the knee will heal and it will be FINE, but it has made me question the future.  Which brings me back to that dark country road on a warm summer evening….

The morning prior to the interview with Mr. Nagengast I was talking with Jeanne Parks about the future of DMA.  As with all things, staff will come and staff will go and we are, indeed, developing new people to “step up” and take on more responsibilities, etc.  And I added myself to the list of staff who will one day step away.  It made sense–this is a young person’s job.  I’m not old…I won’t EVER get old (Thank you for teaching me that one “Jeep.”) but as with all things one needs to let new life flourish.

But then something happened…it was subtle, it was soft but it focused all of my thoughts on one thing, and only one thing.  While driving down Fox Den Road in Pike Creek, DE…a road that has always reminded me of the back entrance to Buc Field in Reading, PA, I could think of nothing else except this:  “No. this is what I am supposed to be doing.  I love teaching DMA–not because I am obligated to do it now that George is gone, but because I love to do it.  There is so much more to do, so much more to teach.  Just like the UDMB, it is a part of who I am.  For others there may come a time to step away, but for me, no.  I am supposed to finish this, but more importantly, I want to finish it.  Time to fly.”

Perhaps I was finally listening to my heart reminding me of who I am and what I’m meant to do, or perhaps it was a little leprechaun wearing Buccaneer blue sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear–who’s to say.  Whatever it was, at that moment on that warm summer evening of July 2012 I remembered the magic of Peter Pan and the why of it all.

Hey Neverland, it’s good to be home.