The Best Money I Ever Spent Smiles Back

bass clef

Image by matt_in_a_field via Flickr

The Best Money I Ever Spent waits quietly in a black hardshell case.

The right hands can assemble it and  have it ready to go in moments. It is quiet and dark in the case. When those hands open the case and carry it into the light, it sings again. I’ve smiled anytime The Best Money I Ever Spent sang a note.

Rent To Own

Renting to own something, anything, is usually a sucker bet. I figured it made sense to do it in this case. He was pretty young. Who knew if he’d even be using it the next year? I signed on the dotted line and we took it home.

It sounded funny. His arms weren’t long enough to do all the things with it that he would later come to do with ease. He had to use his toes to reach the outer limits of its possibility.

The money went out in monthly checks. Under the guidance of two teachers who cared about him, the sound he made with it went from funny, to good, to really good.

From Rent To Own To Just Owned

About the time the money stopped going out in checks and started being sent electronically, a notice came in the mail that said to stop sending money. The payments were complete. We had ownership.

By this time he was making The Best Money I Ever Spent sing each time he opened the case. It didn’t sound funny anymore. Before long, a second case joined the fray. He’d open each in turn and make them sing. His confidence grew in so many directions.


Today The Best Money I Ever Spent waits quietly inside a black hard shell case.

The World's Most Dangerous Marching Band, 10/9/10, in the stands. copyright me

The boy who used to use his toes to reach seventh position on his rent to own trombone now plays a gleaming silver horn in a college band miles away. I see him charging toward his life in the same way he runs out on to the field in front of 60,000 people to make that silver horn sing – with an 18 year old’s confidence and the grin of that sixth grader carrying home his first trombone.

This morning I opened the case and looked in at The Best Money I Ever Spent. I whispered and let his old horn know that he’s doing fine.

I know that horn smiled back at me.

It’s marching band season again, I’ve been traveling a bit this week and I just plain like this post. Three good reasons to rerun it a year later.

The horn still lives at my house. My son made it sing a little this summer, then headed back to school. He and the horn are a year older and still doing quite well.


33 Comments on “The Best Money I Ever Spent Smiles Back”

  1. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Sweet. That’s you, Oma. Pithy, funny, and just plain sweet.

  2. Z.N. Singer says:

    The best comedic writers always turn out the occasional gem like this. I always enjoy it when it’s your turn.

  3. Lenore Diane says:

    Thank you for rerunning this post. I missed the original ‘air’ date. Your story makes me proud of your son and you as a parent. Well done, Guys. Well done!

  4. Spectra says:

    You sound like a good Dad. And a sensitive soul.

  5. Great post! My daughter plays the clarinet in 8th grade and hopes to play in the marching band in high school. I still have my cello from when I played as a kid. Like you, I’ve always felt encouraging music with my kids was truly important. You’ve captured the essence of that here!

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh see, you’re going to get me going now. Marching band is the best thing for you and her in the HS and college years. If she gets nervous before signing up for whatever reason I can give you 1001 reasons why it is the greatest.

  6. sekanblogger says:

    I completely understand. I grew up playing the trumpet. I started in 4th grade. By the time I was a junior, I got 1st chair at state.
    I have an expensive trumpet, stuck in the closet. It’s a Conn 60B, not plated, but silver through and through. It needs refurbished now. One valve sticks and the dents are numerous (it is soft silver).
    Those were the best days of my life, I was in EVERYTHING….marching band, stage band, orchestra, spent many hours in the pits (musicals)….everything. I’m now 51 and the locals still ask me if/when I’ll play again.

    In fitting with your theme here, one tune we played at ball games was Chicago’s “Make Me Smile”! If you love brass, you must love the late Bill Chase:
    scroll down

    • omawarisan says:

      First…sorry your posts didn’t come through at first. I think I see what happened, but we’ll see.

      I bet someone would love the chance to refurbish an instrument like that. I have a theory that music is one of those things people could return to easier than they realize. I hope you prove me right.

  7. Debbie says:

    Outstanding, Oma! My College Guy is in the Band, too (Trumpet), and I swell with pride every time I see them trot onto the field and play their hearts out before 80,000+ screaming fans! Takes me back to when I was in college band (clarinet) and did the same. These years are so memorable, and I’m glad you consider the silver horn to be The Best Money You Ever Spent — me, too. Me, too!

    • omawarisan says:

      Isn’t it cool how well received they are in college? The last game I went to the student section went crazy when the band came on the field for pregame and stayed full for the half time show. I’ve been so happy seeing that because in my son’s case the school and administration in high school were indifferent to the band at best.

  8. Katybeth says:

    Still a sweet post a year later. Perhaps your son would treat us all to a little music via video. I think I may have said this last year, as well, but it sounds like it’s time for a father-son visit.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you KB!

      I put their pregame show up right above this just before I saw your comment.

      It’s always time. He’s got a game Saturday evening and I’ve got to work Sunday am. Driving up for Saturday breakfast, staying through the half time show and driving 3 hours back.

  9. AiXeLsyD13 says:

    As soon as I read the headline, I thought of my guitar. Ha ha.

    Excellent post!

    • omawarisan says:

      Man, if there was one thing I’d change it would be that I had that feeling that you and other musicians do.

      Good luck with the walk Saturday. Last time I looked you were right on top of your fundraising goal.

  10. k8edid says:

    Beautiful – I missed this last year. A very touching post – I love the fact that your pride and love shine through without you ever using those words.

  11. linlah says:

    Glad to hear, really hear. I love marching bands, they make my heart hurt with happiness.

  12. Maxim says:

    Great story. I wonder if the best money I ever spend will be some sort of sharp weapon.

  13. Very nice–congratulations!

  14. Todd says:

    Congrats for surviving the first few years of honks and squeaks and “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie” until he finally learned to play it like a pro!

  15. Amy says:

    The image of a little boy using his toes to play the trombone is incredibly sweet. How wonderful that he stayed with the same instrument all these years. I remember being too small to reach the pedals on the piano and my fingers weren’t long enough to play some chords. I wish I’d stuck with it. By the time I got to high school, it got pushed aside. I’d love to be able to sit down and play today.

  16. We found him Captain!! says:

    You are the MAN!! I’m so happy to have made your acquaintance. I hope the lump in my throat goes away soon….. You are doing the finest thing a father can do for his children. Make it obvious to them that you care. I wish you were my father.

  17. Pie says:

    I LOVE marching bands, especially when they play contemporary tunes. I like to hear the cleverness in the interpretation. I’ve seen a few clips on YouTube and never cease to be amazed at the ability of the players to make big dance moves while holding and playing big instruments. And your son is one of those people. You have much to be proud of. I think I’ll be looking to Amazon for CDs of marching bands, ‘cos I know I won’t be able to find them here in Blighty, alas.

    • omawarisan says:

      I do have much to be proud of. And on top of that he is a good musician.

      His band is working on their next show which they’ll perform at the next two football games. It will be three songs by Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Fat Bottomed Girls and Bohemian Rhapsody. I’ll have to remember to send you the link when he sends me the video.

  18. dottiemaggie says:

    lovely post 🙂 and made me miss music in my life. . . used to play French Horn, but never owned my own horn. I had a piano when I moved to Newfoundland, but I never played it so I gave it to a musician friend so it would get some proper use. . . It may not be a huge part of my life now, but I am very thankful my parents supported me in that when I was younger 🙂

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