My mother played the bugle in the Norwich Free Academy Marching Band. After she graduated from NFA in 1939 she joined the Navy as one of the first 500 WAVES. (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She was proud of serving during WWII and often talked about playing the bugle for her country.
My mom and dad met during that war. They were introduced at a beach party in Virginia, and 18 days later they were married. Their story was legend in our family, as one of trust, understanding, lots of love and over 62 years together.
For decades they lived on the second floor above a store, in a big turn of the century house they owned on the Post Road in eastern Connecticut. Surrounded by wonderful neighbors, and a few apartments behind their property, they were a well-known fixture in town.
The day I decided to give mom her gift, my dad was working in his garden. I called him inside to share the moment, but mom was so excited to unwrap it, she didn’t wait.
My mother smiled when she opened the box. As she ran her hand over the unpolished brass surface I knew she loved it. Immediately she walked out onto the second floor back deck, and after over 50 years of not playing, touched the bugle to her lips and played “Reveille.” Red faced, and eyes popping, I thought she was going to drop on the spot. It was a rusty rendition but it was hearty. I knew my mother as a classical and contemporary pianist so to see her as an old lady puffing her cheeks and pumping her lungs was hysterical. When finished, she panted to catch her breath. Cheers and applause resounded from behind the trees blocking the view of the apartments behind their house. I yelled “thank you” and several loud “you’re welcomes” came back. We laughed so hard my mother ran to the bathroom or she would have pee’d her pants.
After things quieted down, and back on the deck, my mother raised the bugle to her lips, stood straight and slowly started to play Taps. This time the notes were clear, both in tone, and intent. Below us, in his gardening jeans, work shirt and dirty boots, my father stood at attention, looking up at us and listening. Dress whites and spit polished shoes would not have done his show of respect more justice.
Like an echo across a generation I saw my parents as they were during the last war the world fought. Young, proud and in love with freedom. Tears streamed down my mother’s cheeks as she drew the last note long and let it fade. My father saluted, wiped his eyes, did an about face and crisply marched across the lawn to his wood shop out back.
“He’s going out there for a nip,” my mom said.
The neighborhood had gone quiet. “Day is done.”
You can reach Carolynn at firstname.lastname@example.org . She tried to play the bugle once. That was enough.