For slipping back into time, an olfactory memory (hallucination??) is probably the strongest and straightest route. You get a whiff of a certain something — or imagine you do — and suddenly you’re 5 years old again. (Dubble Bubble bubble gum, perhaps? Grapette soda?) A few years ago, while walking Toby, I rounded the corner at 14th and Spring, and for a split second, slipped through a vortex in time back to my great-grandmother’s house in Russellville. It was the smell, which I couldn’t even begin to describe. It was a disorienting and disconcerting, though absolutely fabulous, moment, and, because I’m married to John, my husband was fascinated, instead of questioning of my sanity, as I tried to describe it in great detail. We went back to the spot, but nothing. I’ve gone back many times, in fact, trying to sneak up on it and slip through again, but no luck so far.
Much more common is the auditory memory/temporary time travel that for me occurs through songs. Any song from Neil Young’s Harvest album instantly (and as years go by, much more heart-stabbingly) transports me back to second semester of my junior year of high school. At least for a few seconds, if not for a full song, I’m 16 again and falling in love.
Likewise, Santana’s marvelous cover of “Black Magic Woman” (not the original Fleetwood Mac’s original version, which is mighty fine,too) sends me back to 10th grade, and Santana’s “Evil Ways,” takes me to freshman year. Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (or the flip side, “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman”) is a ticket to ride to the eighth grade, and the Beatles “Ticket to Ride” is good for the fast track to fifth grade.
You get how it works. Maybe it works for you, too.
I remember clearly standing by my parents’ console stereo listening to KAAY-AM, 1090, on your dial, at age 8 and hearing my first song “by a new band out of England,” but I can no longer remember if it was “Please, Please Me,” “I Saw Her Standing There” or “She Loves You.” I do know it was love at first hear and my life changed. If you didn’t live through it, you probably can’t relate, but if you were there, you know.
My transistor radio became my best friend. The Daily Top 10 Countdown, which came on at 5 p.m., was a sacred ritual. I had to experience it alone at just the right spot on the driveway for optimal reception. (Don’t talk to me! I’m listening.)
Later, over on Blackhawk, I discovered that after 9 at night at just the right spot on the driveway, I could pick up WLS in Chicago. “Truckin’” and “Cindy’s Crying” made my nights.
Hmm, this posting kind of took off on its own. Let me reign it back in.
I meant to say that early Tom Petty is my son Ben’s toddlerhood (little Liz had a thing for The Boss); anything early MTV is my stay-home-with-the-kids years; “We Are the World” sends me back to the spring I taught seventh-grade English and Liz’s Cindy Lauper Barbie doll (Liz transformed her via scissors and markers — very nicely done for a 4-year-old). The Live Aid concert finds me steaming Elvis-Presley-gold flocked wallpaper off the hall walls at our second house.
Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” and REM’s “Bittersweet Me” both made me cry and let me know it was time to cut my marital losses and move on. (Really, when you’d “sooner chew your leg off than be trapped in this,” it’s obviously over.) Instead of making me sad now, they’re freedom anthems.
John and I fell in love to Bonnie Raitt’s Silver Lining CD (yeah, kind of cheesy, but great lyrics and what a voice), and one note from any song still gives me the giddies. But we got married to the Beatles “In My Life,” which has a nice synchronicity. He changed my adult life, just as the Beatles changed my childhood.
And music is my memory. All I have to do is roll up for the tour.