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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Calling My Children Home

On the Bandstand
Mj Pettengill

Before becoming a full-time writer, I was a trumpeter. I did this for most of my adult life, learning the cello somewhere along the line, which has become the present instrument of choice. 

Having a mother for a trumpet player was not what one would expect. What was the norm for my three children was nothing like what others typically experienced growing up. Here’s what I’m talking about.


When my children were very young, before I home educated them and moved away to a farm on a distant mountaintop, we lived close to a school. The ball field and playground were just beyond the stone wall that bordered our property. I used to walk to school to greet them at the end of the day.

Sometimes, I brought my cornet or my pocket trumpet with me in my backpack. Once the school children climbed on the last buses and everyone went home, I sat on a bench and played my horn while my kids played. Until they got used to it, the neighborhood kids were thrilled.

For my children, it was no big deal. I was their mom. They were used to going with me to rehearsals and having a house full of brass players. They were musicians themselves from a very early age. In fact, we performed together as a family. I used the money from our gigs towards their music education. We were a rural, New Hampshire, instrumental version of the Von Trapp family without the Alps as a backdrop.


I told my children every night when we prayed or talked about our concerns and what we were grateful for, to remember to share their gifts. It was one thing to be talented, to play in orchestras, ensembles, and bands around the Northeast, but we should always give back. They have not forgotten, and all give back in their own way.


So, earlier, when I was outside tossing peanuts to Ivy and Solomon Seal—the chipmunks that used to live under the woodpile but now live beneath my studio—a memory washed over me.


During the times that I did not accompany my kids at the playground (I could see them from my kitchen window), and it was time to call them home, I would stand on the back porch and play Reveille. Sometimes I would play the Bugle Horse Race Call. 


After the first call, I would pause. The kids would rarely come galloping home at the sound of the first call. I would then play it again, a little louder, and holding the last note a bit longer. Then comes the pause. It was an unspoken understanding that if I played it three times, they were pushing it. But many times I had to put out the call three times. 

Then one of them would answer, “Coming!” 

And the three of them would race home. I liked it. To me, it was much better than a shout, whistle, or bell.


So, there I was this afternoon after I had summoned the chipmunks, thinking about how I would love nothing more than to call my children home. It doesn’t matter how old they are or how old you are. As I have said repeatedly over the years, the umbilical cord is not severed, although no longer in sight, in spirit, it continues to grow.


I am grateful that my daughter, the traveler, is no longer on the road. She is closer to home. However, my boys are far away. I miss them. My instincts are to call them home. In this life, I am the quintessential mother. I send my love to children all over the world. I send my love to the mothers who dream of calling them home.

Emmylou Harris

Songwriters: B. Yates / C. Waller / D. Lawson

Calling My Children Home lyrics © Fauquier Music


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