My Big Chance


I eagerly rushed forward and took the drum from the boy and hooked it onto the belt at my side. Immediately, I was playing the drum as if I had been born with it and soon we were nearing the Encanto Theater near “P” Street, and… there she was. My grandmother stood stoically, not showing any emotion as I proudly, almost arrogantly showed off beating on that snare drum.

I had seen her immediately, in fact, before she had spied me, and there she stood, my paternal grandmother, Fanny Elizabeth McKenly Reid, the same woman with whom I had grown up, my Toots.  The mere fact of seeing her standing there finally, just to see me go by, sent chills of happiness all through my body.

By then we had rapidly passed the Capitolio Theater and our most recognizable “P” Street, with a glimpse of the recently completed Catholic Chapel on the hill which, for me, were important landmarks in my Calidonia and San Miguel neighborhoods.  Even today, whenever I pass by there it brings back those feelings of being home.

With my mind on my performance, I maintained my focus and played that drum with added exuberance as my eyes were rewarded by recognition from several of the kids who also had grown up with me. It was then that I recognized Norma and then her brother Eric Turner of the Toppin family.

We were all recognized residents of Magnolia building, and they were my childhood brothers and sisters or, as we say in Spanish, hermanos de crianza– a couple of siblings just as Aminta and I were to many of our neighborhood people. And there they all were, standing waving proudly at me from street level as other people were doing on that parade route.

Not far from there my band buddy, the owner of the drums, was keeping himself at the back of the drum corps, allowing me my moment of glory. However, he soon slid up next to me demanding that I turn the drum over to him, and so we again made the agreed upon exchange.

I then resumed my place in line at the back with my rookie relief compañero marching proudly with our drum sticks tucked under our right arm hoping to get another opportunity at relieving the drummers and play the snare drums. My big chance came on several occasions, however, since the bright and hot morning sun of our beautiful country would soon have my veteran drummer begging me to come forward and take over for him again and again on that long parade route.

This story continues.  

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