Music sends layers of memory pouring out like a sideshow reliving a past
When I hear the song ‘Unforgettable’ a past pours over me, and I am taken back and forward, and back and around, with the replays of the video, to the replays of my mind; and the past returns to make me smile with the delight of memory, and the joy of being in love and loved.
The love may have receded like his hairline, but the memory of the everlasting love lingers, and brings the smile back to my face over the distance of the years. The potent combination of music, voice and image, will always have the power to harness the past to the present and the now, and lines such as ‘Darling, it is so incredible that someone so unforgettable, thinks that I am unforgettable too.” still make me feel special and bleat with nostalgia.
The memory of being young, beautiful in someone’s eyes, and unconditionally loved, is so romantic. It is death that freezes the love, and keeps it alive and never retired. In my eyes, he never got old, and I always stayed ‘unforgettable’.
The opposite end is ‘Ain’t she Ugly..’ which when played, stunned and embarrassed me. Frank Traynor was my piano teacher and friend, and I loved him and his music. One evening, I walked into the club, and as I walked in one of the band introduced the song by dedicating it to me. Instead of being delighted and going along with the joke, I felt very insecure and ashamed to be called ‘ugly’ in front of all those people. I simply cried. Frank was mortified…they had never meant to hurt me, just thought it was a joke…The feeling again comes over me when I hear that song, and I cringe inside and feel waves of unhappiness and sadness.
Music is the most powerful of sense awakening, and that is why old favorites stay old favorites with many people. Its not the music, its the feeling the music evokes. We remember the excitement of rock and roll. The full skirts that spun as we spun, the fast pace and the happiness that went with the dancing. One cannot rock and roll without enjoying it. It was such fun music, and it brings back the memory of dancing all night, of pretty clothes and luminous socks and weird tight pants. Same with Jazz…the jazz clubs, the fast dancing, the Charleston and the boogie woogie. The young people swaying or shaking to music in a smoky disco never experienced the thrill of the fast dance and the exuberance of the musical rhythm and beat. I also love country dancing with the smell of hay, and the wild violins and the Tea Chest Bass and washboard.
Then the sense of smell.….cookies cooking, a roast dinner, barbecued meat on a hot summer evening. Chlorine in the home pool, and pine trees and pine smoke from burnouts. I remember the smell of sunburnt skin soaked in coconut oil for a richer tan, of sweaty exertion after winning squash or jogging for miles, and the heady scent of brewed beer and Chanel number 5. The salty scent of the sea as we sailed close to the water on small catamarans, and the summer rain after the drought. I also dream when I savor the spicy aromas of gluwine after a day skiing, and freshly washed hair, and linen dried in the sunny wind. The scent that had me reeling recently was dead sheep. Rob always came to me still smelling of the dead sheep he had shorn, and the pungent smell of rotting wildlife and wet wool brings memories that are almost hypnotic in the powerful blast of past. I had forgotten about that till memory hit me so hard that I whimpered in pain.
Do we remember touch? I touched a face and remembered the softness of my son and child, as he lay in my arms. A young boy hugged me, and I felt the strong young body in my arms, and felt the loss that this was something special that will never be mine again. I remember the willowy softness of my daughter as she held me, and the harsh feel of being hit by a hose in anger one summer. The softness of a feather bed, and the luxury of falling onto 6 feather doonas in crisp white linen sheets. The cold hardness of the fancy wrought iron seats at Rome Airport, where I spent an agonizing night trying to stay awake for the dawn flight, and the biting cold of riding pillion on Andre’s bike with my face touched by icy winds, my eyes streaming in the cold, and my heart screaming with delight.
Yes, I remember the cold of the metallic evening dress that never warmed, and the fluffy caress of snowflakes falling on my lips and tongue when walking in the snow. The touch of a child’s hand in mine, and the soft dog’s tongue licking the salt of my legs and feet while I complained, and the rougher scraping of my cat’s tongue as she washed my hand, and then the sleekness of the oil that poured between my legs in summer.
Sight brings memories with the rising of the moon. Tonight the orange moon rose from the trees, and I remembered the moon rising over the sea and sunsets. Moonlight guiding the way on army bivouacs, and moonlit waters over the sea. Once I saw a blue moon, as I stood on the rooftop of my house in St Kilda, and flickering flames rising from campfires send me back to summer campsites, singalongs and toasted marshmallows by the sea, when we slept the night on the beach curled in the sand, and woke to crusty bread and hard boiled eggs for breakfast. I see the laughing eyes of my son and his trusting look as he believed everything he was told. I see the hurt when he was told the truth, and the pride when the task was done. These sights are indelible, and will always stay. We do not need our eyes to see what we can see within the heart. The memories are there when sometimes you have time to stop and stare at what was then and now and always. The soft smile of my grandson will always warm my heart and I hold this greedily to my heart.
Unforgettable…so many things in our lives. We fold them away like files, and then something clicks a key, and the memory opens and we live them yet again.
Forget the bad. Throw it out. Why waste storage time on pain. Keep the joyful and the happy for those times you need them, and they will always come to make you smile again. Treasure the wealth of your mind.
What are the memory triggers that send you off into your own world of dreams?
We all have unforgettable memories and keys that open every door.
Maggi Carstairs 2008