My hands shook just enough to rattle the keys on my trumpet. My sister raised her arms, and I brought the instrument to my lips, fingering a low C note. And we begin our warm-up, dubbed "Long Tones" by the band director. As a deep, clear Bb concert spread throughout the football field, I wondered what makes this competition different from the others. Its finals, the last show of the season, which is enough to make it more important than the others, but I've been to three finals shows before. Never had I been able to thwart my own tears at the last competition of the year, but everyone cries at finals. Only the few coldhearted band members who would rather be at home playing video games or those who couldn't bring themselves to care about anything, much less marching band. Theirs were the eyes no one expected to fill; they made a point of not worrying about how we did. But, yes, I had definitely cried at finals every year before, and, yes, I was crying now. But something made it different; something I only realized after my sister began conducting.
My sister, my prodigal clarinetist sister. My sister, the best drum major our band had seen in a good many years. We hadn't ever gotten along particularly well, and, if anything, we were worse than usual this year. This was her senior year, and I had two years left at home after she was gone. Two years to play big sister to my little brother, to have our room to myself, and to be the favorite and the best at something for once in my life. I was happy before, but what was I now? Watching the younger clarinet players cry their eyes out at practice the day before hadn't done what it should have. Nor had hearing the reply of a rookie, when asked why she was crying ("It's not your senior year"), that she didn't want those who were leaving to go, especially her section leader and drum major. Now it was time for all my true emotions to escape me and become known, along with my tears. The reason it was different this year was, simply, I was going to miss my sister.