I walked nervously into a French elementary school with a six pack of beer.
Five people were already there and the eight others that followed me in were all packing flasks, bottles… and musical instruments.
Seems I let a well kept secret slip on a business trip that in a former life I played the trombone. A colleague in my multinational corporation leaned across the boardroom table and immediately propositioned me… to join her band.
Now you have to realize that almost a month to the day I graduated high school l left Ohio, and my trombone, behind. Yup, Europe and sophistication awaited. And my future did not include buckeyes or brass instruments.
Almost 25 years had passed living a sophisticated life overseas and now like an embarrassing childhood nickname, that inelegant part of my past was being revealed.
Pretty petite girls played flute or the clarinet. The cool kids played sax, or trumpet or the ultimate cool; drums. The jokers played trombone. Who takes a trombone, or a trombone player, seriously? We called ourselves the Boners, for heaven’s sake.
(There. You have it. The nickname AND the instrument.)
I had come so far but my past of being an awkward, six foot tall teenage trombonist with an 80’s perm and braces was coming back to taunt me.
I tried putting my colleague off but she persuaded me to come to just one practice, one.
That’s how I found myself one evening walking behind her and her boyfriend through the quiet street of their Toulouse neighborhood with bottles rattling in my bag. They were carrying a flute, sax and clarinet between them, I was carrying the stash. A sophisticated roadie in a Max Mara coat and high heels.
Well, the first thing I saw when I walked into the room were the steel drums…. Then the bongos (BONGOS!) And that is when I turned to see a guy tuning his banjo. How could I not join a steel drum band … with a banjo???
Before tuning their instruments, they all poured their gin and other smooth refreshments to have close at hand. This was definitely NOT Mr. Polce’s 10th grade band practice.
My colleague introduced me to everyone as the potential brass. “Ohhhh, trombone” they all said with a gleam in their eyes… For the first time in my life it was said with admiration, almost. They had wind, and string, and percussion… they even had three back up singers … but no brass. So the stakes were high to get me to join.
They finally gathered in a circle around mics and began to play. Oh, was it good. Eclectic, and good. Brazilian Songs, French songs, Spanish songs… Zydaco to old fashioned American rock and roll. At one point when the clarinet had his solo, everyone danced a joyous, infectious gin-induced dance.
It. Was. Glorious.
During one particular song they all hummed the trombone part, taking obvious turns to try and catch my eye. I was maintaining my poker face but already projecting myself dancing wildly with my trombone in my hands casting off those hard earned years of sophistication.
But I was keeping one last dark secret close to my chest: I kind of sucked as a trombone player.
Dying water buffalo sucked.
I haplessly smiled at them in their sweet attempts to entice me to join, knowing they might come to regret this fated evening.
When rehearsal was over, like in an overenthusiastic church, they all made a point of stopping and welcoming me again. I am sure I heard a happy sigh of “brass” as one of them was packing up his instrument.
I texted my colleague the next day “thanks again for last night…very, very tempting.” She wrote back immediately, “glad to hear it 🙂 go find a trombone!”
Now where was I ever going to find a trombone in the Southwest of France?