During marching season in high school, band practice dictated how I dressed. On practice-free days, I could wear anything, but when we had after-school rehearsal, I always wore one of our white band t-shirts. The shirts were absolutely plain other than a small logo on the right chest, but that logo meant a lot to me. That logo branded me as a member of the JET Band, and I was proud to wear one every time I marched. With all of my sister’s old band shirts, I was ready from the outset to have a band shirt for every day I needed one.
Because there were a lot of days. In a given week, we might have 3 rehearsals, 1 football game, and 1 competition, and because every practice and performance tested the saturation of my cotton shirts, each day required a fresh shirt. By my senior year, however, I had sufficiently worn and stained several shirts out of use, leaving me in a potential shortage for long weeks. I needed more shirts. I needed to act.
A tradition in my high school band program is “Money Day.” Held after-school on the first day of classes, students try various sizes of marching shoes, specify their meal plans, and pick up equipment for the rest of marching season, including band shirts. Duties as a senior meant I didn’t get equipment until the end, when all of the medium shirts were gone. I wouldn’t wear anything except one of those medium band shirts in shortage, so I just wrote my name down on a list to receive one when more shirts arrived. Things were not going according to plan: instead of multiple shirts, I had none.
Several hours later, we were cleaning up the band hall from the chaos of “Money Day” when we came across an unopened box. My band director used his keys to open it, cutting the tape to discover the treasure within: the missing medium band t-shirts. With an abundance of fresh, shining shirts before me, I eagerly grabbed one out of the cardboard box, satisfied that I had something to show for “Money Day.” In my glee, I foolishly missed the opportunity to take more, a mistake that might haunt me if not for more luck.
The following day, I was rehearsing in class when I saw our drum majors passing out band shirts. At the time, I thought nothing of it, but the greatest gifts come when we aren’t looking. Now, I can’t remember whether I had a chance to intercede or not, but before I knew it, I had another shirt. Maybe I was standing and playing when the drum major came and dropped the shirt off on my seat, or maybe I accepted it sitting down, with thanks and a mischievous grin. In any case, I resolved my confusion when I remembered that I had never indicated to anyone that I had eventually received a shirt the day before: they still thought I was one of those poor, shirtless students on that list.
That made me question whether I actually knew who “they” were. I knew I had stolen from someone; I had only paid for one shirt. Through the rest of class, I argued with myself about what to do. I could give it to my band director, but he had better things to worry about than a band shirt. I could give it back to the drum major, though she would probably care even less. As I went down the list of potential contacts, I gradually realized that my mistakenly received shirt mattered to no one except me. To me, that shirt represented one day a week where I wouldn’t have to wear a shirt with a hole in the armpit, or a pizza stain down the front. And as soon as I determined that there was no victim in my crime, the shirt truly became mine.
I still wear both shirts to this day. Other than that logo, they’re plain white shirts I can wear under button-downs. Whenever I pull one out of my wardrobe, it reminds me of my pride for high school band, a pride I wear with me everywhere. And whenever I see them next to each other as I fold my laundry, they remind me of my pride for my loot, the band shirt that found its way to me.