There’s a feeling you get when you’re doing something you love, a rush that starts in your toes and works its way up through your body, giving you butterflies in your stomach and chills up and down your arms even on the hottest Alabama summer day, until it finally explodes on your face as a beaming smile. Even if you try every day, you can’t make that feeling; it just happens, and sometimes we’re lucky enough that it happens when we’re with the people we love most in the world.
The last home football game of every regular season is senior night at Jacksonville High School, where we recognize the seniors of the band, football team and cheerleading squad. Every year, the names get a little more familiar, the memories become a little fonder and the tears flow a little harder; this year was no exception.
I’ve known this year’s group of seniors, for the most part, since long before high school. They are truly some of the most creative, talented and genuine people I’ve ever met. They’ve stood by me when I couldn’t stand alone. They’ve made me laugh when I felt like crying, and they’ve far exceeded the “duties” of a friend. For anyone who was part of an especially close club or circle of people growing up, you’ll understand: We’re more like a family.
In a regular season, we spend more than 150 hours together at practices, football games and competitions, so, naturally, we form airtight friendships, which only makes the last game of the season all the more bittersweet. It’s hard to say goodbye when you’ve been through so much with people; they become more than “a kid in the band.” They’re friends, people you want to see succeed. It would be a lie to say that I don’t want them to stay, but a bigger part of me is so incredibly proud and blessed to have known them.
Last Friday was for the Jacksonville High School Golden Eagle Band seniors: every footstep and every note. All night I was close to tears. The seniors weren’t happy, but they weren’t quite sad, either. The best I can describe them as is proud. But I didn’t cry until halftime. Our last song was an arrangement of Buster Poindexter’s “Hot, Hot, Hot,” and by the final measures of the song, the entire stadium was on its feet and roaring so loudly that I could barely hear the band blaring around me.
My eyes were starting to blur with hot tears, but I managed to end the show in one piece. Every nerve in my system was on autopilot as the student section started chanting, “We love the band!” but it wasn’t enough. I, along with half the band, lost it. The reality had finally set in that this was it. It had been a year full of successes and laughs and mountains climbed, and it had all culminated in our best show of the season on that chilly November night in Jacksonville, Ala. And, amidst the tears and the hugs and the congratulations, was that feeling.
Katie Cline, a junior at Jacksonville High School, is a member of The Anniston Star’s high school advisory panel.