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A Marching Band Mermaid Tale
I was told to leave the field as quickly and discreetly as possible. The color guard instructor told me to hold my head up high and move like I had a purpose. In my mind, I figured Move like I had a purpose meant the same thing as Run as fast as you possibly can. I made my way to the back of the field, slightly out of breath, to where two painted white pieces of wood were bracketed together to make a screen. There was nothing supporting it so one person had to stand behind it at all times to make sure that it didn’t fall over. Glued to the front of the screen was a picture of The Little Mermaid and behind it were two band parents waiting for me.
“You ready? One of the parents asked me. I nodded yes and pulled off my blue, sparkly shirt to reveal a purple tank top underneath. Glittery, blue ribbon was stitched to the top and bottom of the shirt and a pair of suspenders were stitched to the inside. Everyone always seemed that they were working under a large amount of pressure. I felt like a race car making a pit stop. Everything seemed to moved around me while I stood still.
“Okay. The moment of truth,” Someone lifted the wide shirt above my head and let it fall to the ground by my ankles. I tried to pick it up and latch it to the suspenders on the inside of my shirt, but I failed due to my nervousness. The suspenders were used to hold up my rock. The “rock” was a mound of gray fabric that had been splattered with black paint and held up by an intricate set of hula hoops of different sizes. Fluffy white fabric was stitched underneath to achieve a lumpy, rock-like appearance. A green satin mermaid tail was glued to the front.
A terrible, ratty, red wig was pulled over my high ponytail. The wig was a child-sized plastic Little Mermaid wig that was too small for my head. To fix this problem, someone had ripped the inside of the wig and stitched the same blue ribbon that was on the shirt to the top so that it could be tied to my head. That wig was what greeted me when I was told that I would be the mermaid. From the second it was pulled from the Party City bag, I knew that I had been chosen.
That year the marching band did a show entitled Fantasmic!. It was a compilation of different songs from popular Disney movies. The band director thought that it would be a good idea to have different members of the band dress up as characters from the movies. In one marching band show alone, there would be special appearances of Mickey Mouse, Belle and The Beast, and Ariel from the Little Mermaid. It was a usual topic of discussion among the band. From process of elimination, it was figured out that the people to fill these positions would have to be in the colorguard, but as to whom, nobody knew.
Being that it was my first year and resembled none of these characters, I was certain that I would not get any of these positions. I had very little experience being in colorguard as it is, and I definitely did not have any experience in being a mermaid. Somehow, I managed to impress the instructor with my natural talent in which she presented me with this solo which I will then perform with flawless execution.
Despite the blue skies and blinding sun, it was still pretty chilly. I was shivering without the long black sleeves of my uniform. Since the suspenders were made of elastic, I felt the “rock” bounce around me with every step I took. The band started to play the beginning of Part Of Your World. It’s go time, I told myself. Despite my ridiculous appearance, I took my role very seriously. My instructions were to make my way to the middle of the field slowly, to prevent my rock from bouncing up and down too much. Once I got to that spot, I shuffled over to the center of the circle that the band created around the fifty yard line. Once there, I was supposed to turn and wave with the music.
Okay. I got this. I. Got. This. I looked around at all of the people in the the audience. I had just came to the realization that all of those people had their eyes on me. Every one of them was watching my every move. My foot got caught on a hole in the ground. I wobbled around back and forth in my rock dress and the long tail got caught between my feet. I tried to stabilize myself from falling, but whatever I did, I only made the situation worse than I already was.
I caught eye of the colorguard instructors in the audience. She saw what was happening on the field below her. She gave me a look of secondhand embarrassment. At first she looked at a lost, but then she began to point dramatically towards the left side of the field. One of the first things that I was taught in colorguard was that even if you had no idea what to do, you had to keep smiling. I did just that as I awkwardly sidestep to the left of the field while staring intently at the audience.
I had stopped paying attention to my surrounding which was a mistake because I had gotten extremely close to the clarinet section. The colorguard instructor was now waving her arms in the air, as if she was directing air traffic. I got the message.
Through my forced smile, I nodded ever so slightly to show that I had her attention. I shuffle to the right, only to trip over my skirt again. By that time, the band had began to play the song from Beauty and The Beast and Belle and the Beast waltzed onto the field. I turned around and did the fastest slow walk possible to the back of the field. My time as the mermaid was coming to an end.
I carried out this responsibility at every football game and competition for the remainder of the Marching Band season. I am fortunate that my very first competition was so memorable even though it was a complete disaster. At the time, I considered it a great honor to have such a big role my first year. It was not till years later that someone told me that the only reason why I got the role of the Little Mermaid was that I was the smallest and the only one that could fit in the costume.