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    Memories That Last a Lifetime

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    By Barbara Caridad Ferrer

    1985-90

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    Once upon a long, long time ago, I was a member of the Florida State University Marching Chiefs and in a nutshell, I loved it.  I was a desperately unhappy and angry young woman and being a member of that extended family was often the only thing that made those years bearable.  Actually, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, being in Chiefs probably saved me.  At the very least, it served as the path to meeting my husband of nearly twenty years.

    But I digress.

    One of my absolute favorite memories of my years in Chiefs was the ritual we had at the end of every single game--as the crowds were filing out, we'd play a selection of songs. The diehard game attendees and the parents knew it was coming and they'd stick around, so it was like a little mini-concert.  And the very last thing we'd always play was the "Hymn to the Garnet and Gold."  Oddly, not the school's alma mater, but I'll lay money more people knew this song than actually knew the alma mater.

    It would go like this:  The entire band would play the intro, then, we'd put our arms around each other, and we would sing the hymn with a select group of instrumentalists playing accompaniment.  Then, at the end of the verse, we'd all lift our instruments and play the second half of the piece, really just a simple chorale with embellishment, but one of the loveliest pieces of music ever.  The thing to keep in mind when listening to this, is that most of us, while longtime musicians, weren't trained vocalists.  We didn't put a lot of time into learning this piece--it was just one of those traditions handed down, from year to year, from generation to generation.  The veterans, we'd perform it for the gunkies (rookies) during Gunkie Week, by way of introduction--then came the first time we played it at the conclusion of a game and it was evident, how much it mattered.  When you'd see the people who'd waited around put their arms around each other and just listen and continue to sway as we resumed playing--it really hit you how you were a part of something that was bigger.  You were a continuing link in a chain of tradition.

    I know there are a lot of people who scoff at university athletics or the traditions borne of them, but for those of us who lived it, it serves as connection, something that sinks deep into your soul and lives there, quietly, until it sneaks up at unexpected moments and reminds you that yes, no matter how much time has elapsed or how much distance has grown, you're still now and forever, part of this tradition.

    And at the conclusion of the hymn, a moment of silence would echo through the stadium, then...

    "Marching Chiefs one time!

    "Marching Chiefs two times!

    "Marching Chiefs, ALL THE DAMNED TIME!"

    That's what being a Seminole--now and forever--means to me.

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