MARIACHI BAND IN THE FOREST By John Watts

mariachi

When I was a boy, my little sister and I were always fascinated by the sounds of the forest going on outside behind our backyard.

When the winter turned to spring and in the thick, vibrant soup of summertime, our forest was alive and animated with the most amazing sounds that filled my mind with imagination and wonder.

My parents would patiently account and explain the exact insect source for every sound.

At first it was very subtle and almost imperceptible like someone lightly plucking the teeth of a comb.  Then the textures would begin layering on top of each other.

The crickets were next to wind up their tune, as they launched into their evocative refrain along the bridges and wetlands on those deeply intoxicating summer nights, when the forsythia and the honeysuckle were most tangibly rich in the very peak of fragrance.

The Katydids and crickets serenaded us with their pulsating vibrato.

The shrill sound of frogs were synonymous with the longing for spring and never failed to deliver.  The tremolo sounds of the cranes and the loons as they passed by made us dream of travel.  All of it had a very profound effect on us children.

Faint chirping and cheeping and buzzing noises would cascade down on my ears.  The hissing cockroaches and the clicking beetles all built steady rhythm tracks around each other.

We learned all this from our parents who would patiently answer every one of our impulsive questions regarding what sounds we were hearing outside.  They seemed to never be stumped in scientifically explaining what each sound was; from the most dramatic to the most nuanced.

For all these aforementioned sounds and more, my little sister and I would hide out in the tall grassy fields of our backyard and listen in silent rapture.

But gradually over time, to my impressionable, childhood ears, I began to formulate a different opinion about what we were hearing in the forest.

I hatched the crazy notion that every texture and tone was being played by humans that were just beyond view.  And not just any humans in any kind of musical group—no I was convinced that I was hearing the greatest ever mariachi band ever assembled.

My parents scoffed at such fanciful notions when I would dare to bring it up and changed the subject quickly.  And I often saw how strangely quiet they too became at dusk when they would see me dragging my little sister outside to listen.

In fact I was sure that there really WAS a mariachi band in my parent’s back yard forest.  For every scientifically rationale insect explanation given to quell my theory—I would substitute some percussion player in a mariachi band and visualize it in my mind’s eye.

When my parents said that crickets were rubbing their wings together to make a unified vibration I knew it was the work of a select team of washboard players all scratching out a rollicking tune.

In fact I could even swear I saw glimpses of sheeny satin sleeves and puffy shirted finery in between the tree limbs.

As loyal younger siblings will do, my sister became very fond of this mariachi band theory too and encouraged me to describe more of it to her innocent ears.

But by now things were becoming worse at home with our parents.  My sister and I were told to stay inside earlier in the evening and to not talk about the night sounds in our back forest.

When I brought up my beliefs about the mariachi band playing music for us in the forest, my father scolded me and told me to grow up as he sent me to my bedroom early.

Then I remembered a rumor that night from my older cousins that my father and mother at one time had played music and been very good at it.  I even heard some town folks say that my parents had been very successful in a band when they were young until it had suddenly broken up and everyone had gone their separate ways.

Maybe this had something to do with why my parents were so evasive whenever I brought up my interest in Latin music and mariachi bands.

It was all so hard to imagine as the parents we knew now were very practical and too busy to ever admit to liking music in any passionate way.

FINAL PERFORMANCE—

And then one evening our parents called us in the kitchen with the big announcement.  We were going to move across the country and leave the only home I had ever known.  My father had accepted a job as a banker in a very respectable bank as he knew it was the right thing to do in giving us all financial security.

So our house was put on the market and sold to another family and soon we would move away.

On our final night together at the same address, my little sister and I decided to slip out through the window and creep one more time into the tall grass to listen to our dearly loved nighttime concert.

We were both very melancholy on this night as we thought of leaving our home and starting all over again in some unknown place.

And the nighttime rhythm and cadence did not let us down.  In fact it seemed even more intense and exciting.

We both lay on our backs and stared at the stars shining overhead as the music sounded off in the forest.

As each minute passed it seemed like the music was getting closer and enveloping us.  It was as if nature itself was sending us off with a hearty farewell fit for a fireworks display.

Secretly I wondered if hundreds of insects with unknown origins were crawling towards us and deciding to finally make themselves known.

As my sister and I sat up and looked towards the forests edge—we began to sense movement in the forest.

The forest floor seemed to be rustling.  And my sister corroborated my earlier claim of seeing hints of bright colors in the trees.

And then suddenly a loud TRUMPET sounded and out of the thickness of trees emerged the most spectacularly dressed man I have ever seen all decked out with a lime green suit and a wide brimmed sombrero.

So it was true!  I was right all along!

As I grabbed my sister’s hand, 5 more mariachi players with instruments in hand, strode out in plain view all wearing brilliant traje de charros, consisting of waist-length jackets and tightly fitted wool pants which opened slightly at the ankle to fit over short riding boots.

Of course the trumpet sound had awoken my parents who emerged groggily from the sliding glass door in their bathrobes—looking stunned and in disbelief.

For a while my father looked rigid and stern as if preparing to call the police.  But as the mariachi music rolled on in classic festive form, a change came over him.  He looked less like a banker and more like a musician again.  It was a transformation like I had never seen in anyone before.

The musicians gathered in a semi-circle and serenaded our entire family for at least another hour.

When it was over, their leader in the lime green suit, walked over and gave me a hug.  “Thanks for listening to us all these many nights and for believing!”

Then he turned towards my father and they stared at each other for the longest time.  I knew from their expressions that they knew each other and were old friends.

What followed was a torrent of words and apologies.  Turns out that the mystery mariachi band in the forest that my sister and I had listened to for so many nights, were once the band that my parents had been members of in their prime.

They had broken over some misunderstanding and the bad economy had only made it worse.  And since so many haciendas had to let workers go, including mariachis—the group had begun to wander and play for free as semiprofessionals.

Their hearts (with the help of the internet) had guided them to where we lived in hopes that they could one day convince my parents to reunite with them again.

They knew that my father was stubborn and hard headed and so avoided directly knocking on the front door to come back to remerge back into his life.  They also told me that seeing how rapt and attentive my sister and I were to their music had given them confidence to keep on performing.

But now the music was back in our families’ life again and not hiding in the forest.  By the end of the evening the band had reformed as my father resumed being a lead singer and my Mother found her dancing shoes.  When the mariachi members finally tired and were ready for bed, my parents invited them inside instead of returning (like the ghostly baseball players going in the cornfield in FIELD OF DREAMS) to their chilly, homespun bedding in the forest.  In fact I can definitively say that when the band stopped playing their final song the only outdoor sounds left were the REAL insects in the forest left in their place.

Fast forward 20 years and my sister and I are grown adults who have learned to never take for granted what the forest is saying.  Quien sabe? It might just hold some miraculous secret that keeps your family together and makes dreams possible!

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About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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