On Music and Memories

3 posts about music in a row? On the playground, they call that a tic-tac-toe. In College Station, they call that a tradition. In my own warped little world, I just call that being boring and predictable. However, it’s Friday, so you’ll have to take what you can get.

Thanks to the wonderful world of Pandora, I’ve spent the past few days listening to 80’s music as evidenced by my earlier posting this week. All week I’ve been overjoyed to see something coming in the air tonight with Phil, heard about the greatest love of all from Whitney, and even been rocked by Amadeus by that strange German fellow whose name I cannot recall. During this miniature retro odyssey of mine, I’ve been reminded of how powerful music can be in triggering memories. As I don’t remember the vast majority of what I learned in all those college psychology classes (but thanks for paying for them anyway, Mom and Dad), I can’t remember what this phenomena is called, or even if it’s something that is widespread in all of us or just confined in my own fragile little mind. Nevertheless, for me music has always invoked very vivid memories. To demonstrate, here are 3 examples of things that I shouldn’t remember, but do.

1) Chicago – “So Hard To Say I’m Sorry”

This is one of my earliest memories. I don’t know the exact year, but it was around 1982 – 1983. I would have been about 3 years old at the time. This song was playing on the radio when my dad took me camping for what I believe was the first time, when we were living in North Hudson, Wisconsin. We’d stopped at A&W to pick up dinner before driving to the campsite. One of the cups of root beer spilled on the floor of the passenger side, at which time Dad taught me one of my first swear words. It must have been autumn, because when we got to the campsite I remember it was completely covered in leaves, which actually made for a very soft ground surface to sleep on. We used my parents old green Timberline tent, and at one point I was stupid, ran across the campsite with a flashlight, and tripped over a (thankfully) dormant fire pit. I cried like a little girl, but learned a valuable lesson: don’t run around in the forest in the dark, unless the zombie apocalypse has already started.

2) Starship – “Sara”

I remember the song well, but do not recall if the band was called Starship, Jefferson Starship, or Jefferson Airplane at this time.  This would have been when I was 6 years old, and living in Austin for the first time. We were up at my elementary school flying kites in the field where we played soccer at recess. The music was coming from a boombox in someone’s backyard next to the field. I remember my kite was extremely long and had a tail that more than doubled the length of the kite. At first I was having trouble getting it to stay up (shut up), but once it was in the air it was smooth sailing. I remember that there was a lot of flint in that field, and that I took care to not trip over any of the rocks. All in all, it was a good kite flying day.

3) The Highwaymen – “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train”

In 1989, we bought our first CD player for the house. However, to my knowledge we only bought 2 CD’s to start with. I assume my parents each chose a CD, because the only 2 CD’s that ever got played for the first 6 months we owned that thing were Highwayman and the soundtrack from Dirty Dancing. I’ll let you guess which parent picked which CD. I’m sure that Dad wasn’t putting Desperadoes Waiting For A Train on repeat, but that song sure did get played a lot. The memory that this invokes for me is when my brother and I used to “box” in the living room right next to the CD player. We only owned 1 set of boxing gloves, so to keep things kosher each brother got one boxing glove and one pillow. As luck would have it, I’m right-handed and my brother is left-handed, so it worked out well. My brother is 3 years younger than me, and so at the time was much easier to push around. One of the worst days of my life was the day he figured out that he was no longer shorter than me. In retrospect, it’s amazing that neither of us ever sustained serious injury during those boxing matches, as we were surrounded by marble stonework, breakable glass shelves, and all sorts of other things that kids today are overly protected from. Nevertheless, we persevered, and here I now sit, reminiscing for you about how The Highwaymen provided the soundtrack for some of my brother’s early beat downs.

I realize now that this is one of my longer blog posts, and by now most of you are probably bored. However, I think I’ve made my point. Music has the power, at least within me, to unlock some extremely vivid memories. Perhaps some of you have similar cases, where a certain song or piece of music transports you back to the days of big wheels and sit ‘n spins. If so, please feel free to share your memories. In closing, I present for your approval a haiku that has absolutely nothing to do with what I’ve written about today:

Sean Bean lied to me,
Triple digit heat next week.
Winter’s not coming.

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