Those influential friends

Lately, the past - starving for good recollections, roams through, unearthing nooks and crannies and all sorts of experiences. Revisiting accomplishments, and sometimes, recollections destined for oblivion. Repainting pictures of friends and friendships made, lost, and kept - those influential friendships. Emboldening appreciation for those who, without force, influenced dreams. Today, recollection of those types of amities has come to visit.

As fortuity would retain it, friends of all types have peregrinated into and out of this life of mine. Some of them leaving behind mounds of rubbish and others who left frame-able bits. Friends come and go, but those who implant their subsistence and selflessly open doors to realms of personal revelation and accomplishments deserve eternal appreciation.

As nostalgia sits on that last sentence, the mental image of someone who left some solemn frame-able bits appears. 

Danielle Rumsey is her name. A comely, gray-eyed, English girl. North Eastern College in Trinidad and Tobago is the birthplace of our connection which sleepovers, swimming competitions, road trips and a shared love for animals solidified. Subsequently, a consequential moment as a result of our friendship comes to mind. A moment influenced by her. With simple intention, our feet stomped through a place. A place with a new world - overflowing with awe - where recollections and accomplishments lived. 

Some time ago in the year 1995, Danielle requested company to attend a rehearsal at her steel pan band rehearsal space. This day birthed a deep love for the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago - the steel pan, and excitement from the experience ensured a mouth expressed desire to learn to play this beautiful instrument to the ears of parents.

A few sunrises and sunsets later - upon enrollment in the Gary Straker's Pan School -the dream to share this love for the steel pan with others came true. 

Led by Gary Straker, who at the time was this boisterous, hysterical, and aptitudinal steel pan music composer, the pan school consisted of adolescent children and teenagers. The band played at all sorts of events around the country, serenading audiences with renditions of familiar musical compositions. One such composition is from the movie Mission Impossible, and when played, personal fondness was hard to come by.

As the band grew in size, popularity tagged along. This sanctioned the band's opportunity to take part in the National School's Junior Panorama Festival in the year 1997. Gary, with the avail of another charismatic composer, who went by the designation of "Ian," composed a resplendent piece and the band played it beautifully, so much so, a spot on the "big stage" to play in the finals of the music festival bore the band's name. The sacrifice was tremendous and littered with tedious rehearsals. Limpid recollection of the effects arduous rehearsals created, particularly on the day of the finals, brings to light the badly bruised hands of Nathaniel - a boy at the time and incredible drummer for the band until his premature death in his late teens by the hands of the law. 

As the squeaky wheels of our steel pan racks purposefully rolled onto the stage for our final performance, nervousness appeared until confidence in the composition took its place. 

Once settled in, Gary held his counting stick high in the air in the usual manner, then commenced a customary pre-countdown dance - an energetic two-step. He followed that up with a conventional melodic bang of the steel followed by a rhythmic count from one to four. For the next few minutes, the enchanting sound of sticks to steel rang out. A female judge danced and a score sheet went airborne - a reaction which made certain the band's place in Junior Panorama history. As "Captain" of the band at the time, radio hosts rushed in for interviews once the band's victory was affirmed. The dancing judge was the highlight of those interviews garnering laugh upon laugh.

This victory marked a historic moment for the band, one that led to many other opportunities. It was later recognized with a celebration and an award ceremony with individual certificates as the only tangible byproduct of this accomplishment.

As life would have it, a few years later, other experiences and opportunities for personal growth came knocking. The time to move on to other chapters of life blew in like a casual tropical breeze. Gary, of course, continued with his work which eventually gifted him the recognition he deserved - the Hummingbird Medal - one of the highest awards in Trinidad and Tobago. Some years later illness stole his last breath and just like that, he moved on to a different chapter of existence.


When considering the course of events that followed that one day at Danielle's steel pan band rehearsal, the conspicuous counter thought is, without Danielle in the equation the possibility of these experiences seems slim. Granted, if fate willed it, it could have transpired at another time. All this is cliche, but from an authentic perspective, had Danielle prevented herself from asking for some company to attend her rehearsal that day, then that would have blocked that specific opportunity to kick start the definitive course the universe charted. In the grand scheme of things, it would have prevented the writing of this story.

Friendships are beautiful in that way, as much is experienced as a result of that relationship. The above sentence confirms the necessity or rather the importance of making and keeping friends, especially those influential friends. The deeper truth is, friends like these may open doors of opportunity and personal magnification through the right channels of influence, and yes, influence can come from within but sometimes someone else's input makes a greater impact.  

Influential friends like Danielle are floating in and out of your life right now, so pay attention. Hold on to them, even when the connection has ended. Some friendships are brief that is a given, but regardless of duration and outcome, appreciate those friends and the moments and experiences of each relationship, as those friends may unlock doors littered with uncharted realms awaiting discovery.