A Missed Opportunity

A Missed Opportunity

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A Missed Opportunity

Every time we had visited Williamsburg, my mother had always wanted to see the famous Fife and Drum Corps. Dressed in full costume of red coats and tri-corner hats, these re-enactors parade down the Duke of Gloucester Street playing their instruments in a “call to arms” of the town’s militia. These men have always been one of the main attractions of Williamsburg and one of the symbols of the colonial area. They perform only once or twice a week and by either bad luck or fate, my mother has never actually seen them march. The single time that she did wait for their performance to start, it was cancelled due to bad weather.

It was the second day of our family’s annual three-day trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We had spent the majority of the day strolling about the colonial area, and tensions were getting high. My brother, as the middle child, always picked the most inopportune times to annoy my sister, the youngest. After several near fights, my parents thought that a little separation was in order, at least until dinner. My mother suggested that we go see a program entitled “Dance: Our Dearest Diversion”. Of course, she knew that neither one of us would care to go see the show, being as uninterested in colonial dancing as a cat is of swimming.

Per tradition, my brother and I had earlier in the day bought colonial styled games. He had chosen a handsome set of Fox and Geese, while I had decided on the more exotic and unknown Mancala. All the game consisted of was a flat board with fourteen pits on it, two of the pits being slightly larger than the rest. The bigger pits were at the ends of the board, and the other twelve were in two rows between them. Those pits had four stones (or flattened marbles) in them, and the object of the game was to capture the most stones. According to the little pamphlet that came with the game, Mancala required more mathematical reasoning than sheer luck.

We had sat under the shade of one of the numerous trees that lined the main street of the colonial section, to try out my newly bought game and to rest my tired feet. The cool breeze soothed my scorched my neck as I contemplated my next move.

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If I chose incorrectly, my entire plan would be lost. I carefully gathered my stones and distributed them into my pits, the final stone being placed exactly where I wanted it.

“Yes!” I gloated at my brother, “I win!”

“How’s that?” he asked in surprise.

“Since I managed to get my last stone into my mancala (the larger end pits), I get another turn. Then I’ll move this pile and get that stone into my mancala, enabling me to do the same thing with this pile, and this one, and this one.”

“Are you sure you can do that?” he challenged.

“It says so in the rules.” I said as I pointed out the applicable section in the tiny pamphlet.

“Lemme see it.”

I had gotten quite good, considering we had only played three matches, but my brother was starting to get bored. As usual, when either one of us lost at a game too many times to the other, we started to get bored with it. I could see by the look on his face that he wanted to do something else than lose to me at mancala, so I slowly packed up the game. Mom, Dad, and Katie had only been gone about fifteen to twenty minutes, so I had no clue of what to do until dinnertime.

As I stuffed the board into my blue backpack, a necessity as no one wanted to carry the items they bought, several large groups of people started conglomerating at the far end of the street, at the area referred to as the “palace green” (basically a mile or so long strip of grass, that led to the Governor’s Palace).

“Let’s go see what’s up.”

“Fine. Just remember that we have to meet Mum ‘n Dad at Chownings for dinner at six o’clock. We have to get there a little early too.” I replied, quickly setting the alarm on my watch. By the time the short half-second passed that I looked away, Mike was halfway to the crowd of people.

“How in the screw doesn’t his feet hurt?” I grumbled to myself. I hoisted the almost too heavy backpack on and trudged after Mike down the sandy street. “We’ve been walking too much already!” my sore feet yelled at me. Duke of Gloucester Street is only one mile long, but since I had walked that mile several times today, it seemed more like twenty. Before we got to the crowd of people, the shrill of fifes and the in-sync-with-my-heart booming pound of drums had began. Through glimpses between the crowd I caught a view of several colonial men, dressed in a red coats.

“It’s the fife and drums guys mom talks about!” I blurted out, as several of the other tourists looked at me, their expressions clearly saying “DUH!”

“Too bad she’s at that dance thing instead here!”

“If she’d only waited a bit, she coulda seen ‘em!”

Not wanting to get caught up in the crowd that began parting before and following the group, my brother and I beat a hasty retreat back down the street to our tree. Feeling quite sorry for Mom, but happy to see them myself, I grabbed my Kodak from the backpack pocket and started taking pictures, as the troop marched past us. “At least she’ll get to see them in photos.” I thought.

“Where are they going?”

“Theres that military encampment down that way. Remember it from last year? They had it near the Windmill then. All the white tents?”

“Oh yeah.”

Almost a minute after the Fife and Drums had passed, and the crowd had dissipated, my watch started to beep. “Its 5:40. We should head over to Chownings.”

“I can’t wait to tell Mom that we saw ‘em!” Mike grinned, “She’ll be jealous!”

I, on the other hand, was more interested in eating some of Chownings baby back ribs than of tormenting my mother. “Don’t piss her off, stupid!”

“I won’t dumbass!” he threw back at me.

As we arrived on the faded gray steps that lead into the old colonial tavern, so too did the rest of the family, turning the corner just before us.

“You guys shoulda seen the dancers! It was cool!” My mother and sister seemed to have enjoyed the show, Dad, on the other hand, didn’t seem to agree.

The taverns in Williamsburg are very popular eating spots, and we had made reservations months in advance, but still we had to wait outside in the shade of a large tree, on a bench the same color as the steps.

“Hey Mom. Ya know that Fife ‘n Drum thingie you always wanted to see?”


“The guys in the red coats and three pointed hats?”


“They play instruments, right?”


“Guess what we saw!” He smirked.

“You gotta be kidding me.” She frowned.

“Nope.” I interrupted before Mom killed him, “I got some photos for you. Maybe you can see it later?”

My dad who was reading from the daily events schedule, smiled as well. “I’m afraid not, Mil. That was the only one that happens while we’re here.”

“Try again next year!” crowed my brother, so I knocked him off the bench. Mom didn’t say a word, but I saw her smile.
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