Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Stickiness of a Memory

On the way home from work today, I changed the CD in the stereo.  The kids and I have had the same one in for a few weeks now, and they have the numbers of the songs that they love memorized.  Every once in a while, I throw them off and change it up.  Jason goes bonkers driving in the car with us because we change CDs so rarely.  If you saw the inside of my car you would understand why I don't want to add a bulky CD case to the chaos. 

So, something got me thinking about how songs are linked to so many of our memories.  Music has a way of sticking itself to the most memorable of moments in our lives.  Sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes a just plain, weird memory that you can't figure out why your brain hasn't emptied that part of the recycle bin yet.  It takes up space for no apparent reason, and there is usually a song stuck to it. 

I have certain artists or genres of music that bring back memories, like Nelly and Simon and Garfunkel hanging with me and my bestie, Jen Ray on the way to South Padre every weekend.  Or Korn and their inspiration for the Casey, Katie, Nicole Air Band Awesomeness in high school.  I just made that up - we never called ourselves that.  Katie was guitar, I was drums, and Casey was bass to a particular Korn song, and we ROCKED it.  I am not making that up.  Or songs from Shrek and flashbacks to the bleary having a toddler and newborn at the same time years.  So music in general reminds me of different times and activities in my life. 

But I also have those specific songs that, it never fails, every time I hear them, I remember a very specific moment or feeling.  And it works in reverse, I think of the memory and I automatically remember the song.  Here are the first three song memories that came to mind.

Praise to the Lord sung by Amy Grant.  Maybe eleven years old, riding in the front seat of our beat-up, old, brown Ford Escort wagon on the way to town.  Music blaring.  Me happily and pretty animatedly playing the part of orchestra leader during the instrumental.  A car passes us, and as I look over, my eyes meet those of the people inside the other car.  I couldn't tell you what their faces looked like, but I remember instantly being embarrassed.  Self conscious of being caught acting like a "kid".  Cheeks burning, I lookd down at the puffy gray and purple coat I was wearing.  I hated that coat.  It was a hand-me-down that was not cool.  Puffy, long and gray with purple, scallop-style piping.  I hated it, but it was the only one I had.  I look back now and feel glad that I wouldn't be embarrassed if someone caught me rocking out in the car and thankful that my kids have a million great coats. 

Angel sung by Aerosmith on repeat. Fourteen, hiding in my room on the top bunk, hugging the CD player that took almost all my babysitting money to buy, bawling my eyes out because Jason had just dumped me.  My heart had been eternally broken.  We had been "going out" for maybe a month, and I was certain he was the man I was going to marry (Ironic, huh?...oh, and if you're reading this Babe, that's what you get.  I got the last laugh.).  I must have cried for hours.  Inconsolable and tormenting myself with that stupid song.  I look back now and think about how much emotion and drama goes into being a teenager, and I worry for my kids.  And I chuckle because I did marry him.  Try as he did to get away.  Heehee.

Hanging by a Moment sung by Lifehouse. (I can't find a video link that won't lock up my Internet, so we will try that later.)  On the way to college, my mom and I stopped at the mall.  She had said that she wanted to buy me something I needed.  I asked for a pair of SilverTab Levis and a Jansport backpack.  With the Levis came a free 107.7 The End CD.  The only song I remember on there was that one.  Back in '98 Lifehouse was brand new; no one knew them, but I really liked that song.  I still have the CD.  When I hear that song now, that's what I think about.  Going to college, my new "must-have" pants and holding in my fears and tears because I was still too stubborn and "teenage-ish" to tell my mom that I loved her and I was scared. 

Why are our memories so sticky?  What makes a song like Velcro?  Why do we remember the weird, random things we have done?  There is so much more detail in the memories I just shared.  Too much to write down.  And sometimes I think they are silly memories to have, but I think they stuck because there was so much emotion involved.  I don't ever want to forget that feeling of being embarrassed as a child by my own insecurity, or being heartbroken as a teenager by a boy I was infatuated with, or being scared and excited and strangely homesick all at once as a young adult who had moved out at 16 and was just beginning to rebuild a relationship that I had raged against all through highschool.  I don't ever want to forget what I felt in those moments because I want to be the kind of mom who remembers what it felt like to feel that way.

I'm a grown up now, and a fairly rationale and decently adjusted one at that.  And because I am so "old and wise" it gets really easy when my kids start to complain about something that happened at school or the way they don't like a certain sweatshirt to downplay what they are feeling.  Sometimes I expect them to just move on and get over it.  But it could be that what they want to talk about will be a memory they hold on to forever, and I want them to remember that I understood (or at least said I did, whether they believe me or not).  I can't obviously know exactly how they are feeling when they are embarrassed or heartbroken or nervous, but I can remember how I felt.  The burn in my cheeks, the knots in my stomach, the lump in my throat.  Those memories stuck like Velcro, and I am going to let them stay.    

What songs stuck to your memories?  Why do you want them to stay?


  1. Oh man! "Angel" was one of my teenage angst songs, too! I don't hear it very often anymore, but when I do, the taste of rejection is palpable. I love this post. I love the idea of letting those memories of a younger you helping you relate to your kids.

  2. I made Jason a mix CD once that had a whole bunch of different songs from our relationship(s). He probably thought I was psychotic when I explained why "Angel" was on there!! You have some great songs on your marriage post too!

  3. I enjoyed reading your post. "When You Believe" by Mariah Carey and Whitney best friend from high school and I sang this song at our high school graduation. This is the only song that comes to mind at the moment. Smells are my biggest trigger. And it's not something that is ever in the forefront of my mind. It's like music, when you hear a song and suddenly it brings you to a place in time, smells do that for me. It could be previous boyfriend's cologne or the smell of rain. Smells are just as strong as music as recreating a memory for me.

  4. Taylor - You are right. I can't think of a particular smell right now, but I have had that happen. Even weirder is when you are pregnant and you think you smell something, and linked to a memory or not, you feel crazy because no one else can smell what you are smelling!