Have you ever had the experience of smelling something that triggered the memory of another time or place? How about hearing a song that made you recall an event with near-absolute clarity? It’s happened to me on occasion, and it is a surreal experience. Most recently, it occurred when my siblings and I gathered at my dad’s house to continue going through my mom’s belongings.
My mom had a plethora of good qualities. She was patient, kind and honest. She was a great cook, a wonderful baker and a loyal friend. She loved music and loved to laugh, and I hope that one day, people will say half of the nice things about me that have been said about her since she died.
But as we began to sort through her belongings to help my dad establish his own system, we discovered that my mom was not the best organizer. Mind you, she probably knew the whereabouts of every item she owned. But without her direction, we have been on a treasure hunt of sorts for the past few months.
One jewel we found was a box of cassettes in the bedroom. Many titles meant nothing to any of us, but all of us were amazed to find one particular tape: a mix of artists that Mom recorded from the radio. We all carried memories of listening to the music in the car, and we still could sing at least the choruses from most of the tracks.
“Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Cougar Mellencamp, “All You Zombies” by The Hooters, “Go For A Soda” by Kim Mitchell, “The Confessor” by Joe Walsh and many more songs were on that tape. Hearing my sisters start to sing along immediately sent me back two decades – OK, maybe three – to riding in the car with the windows rolled down and all of us singing at the top of our lungs. (Perhaps that is why Mom had the windows all rolled down in the first place?)
It’s funny how a tape that I hadn’t even remembered existed could have such a powerful effect on me after all of these years. I could picture myself wearing a Tab T-shirt and cutoff shorts, arm out the window and weaving through the wind in time to the beat. My hair may have been in braids, and I may have been barefoot, but I remember being in the front seat, having been the first to yell, “Shotgun!” I was on top of the world that day.
Other songs also have the power to do a similar thing to me. “Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes, and “Glycerine” by Bush, bring back my late middle school and high school years and conjure up images of me learning to drive a car. Anything by Billy Joel is good. I had an Alanis Morissette period. I still like Tupac Shakur, Harry Chapin, The Beatles, Oasis and Simon and Garfunkel.
I have quite a variety of music on my life’s soundtrack, and I am so thankful that we found some that reminds me of my mom. Songs tell their own story, but together they tell ours. And I have a pretty great story, if I do say so myself.