On Future Memories

10 11 2009

I spend a good deal of time driving in the dark, lately. I’ve been doing the driving for months, but the switch back to standard time added the dark element. It hadn’t occurred to me until tonight, but I was doing the very same sort of thing at this time four years ago. Then, as now, I stepped out into the dark, after dinner, and started up The Venerable Subaru (yes, she’s still alive and kicking). Then, as now, I packed the girls in the back, though now they handle their own seatbelts and bags. And then, as now, I plugged in the iPod, fired up a playlist, and we struck out for the other side of the mountain.

Back then, when we three merry travelers made our trip, it was REALLY dark. There’s very little south of Acadia National Park that compares to the Northeast Kingdom for winter dark. It’s not quite so dark now, and unlike those drives, we don’t usually have the road to ourselves. And instead of me firing up my white iPod, either I plug in my Touch, or one of the girls snaps their Shuffle into place.

Something interesting happened tonight that brought it all back as though we’d never stopped our trips. The playlist, loaded up from a bright pink Shuffle, contained a half-dozen or so songs that used to be on our old playlist. And then, as now, they both began singing along (and so did I) to each of those songs. I was particularly proud when, with one too young for school yet, they both knew all the words and timing to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.’s duet of “Fly With Me.”

And they still do.

We covered that one and a few other favorites, and I think we all shared the sensation that we were on an old familiar path, and it’s one where we belong.

I couldn’t help but zone out for a few minutes, as I tend to do regularly, and see a few things that have not yet been. This moment, repeated anew after years of being just a memory, spanned many more years ahead. I wondered where these songs might find us all in the future, and what else they’ll recall to us. I snapped out of it after being implored to keep up my end (“Dad! Keep singing! C’mon! Sing!”)

The experience of songs holding the key to moments in our past is pretty nearly universal. If you are reading this, and there is not one song, not one melody, that transports you back to another place and time, you’re missing a key part of the human experience. Humans are built to reminisce. It’s one of our most charming features. Personally, I have such a deep catalog of songs that call up a moment, a face, a feeling, a smell, for me, it’s literally impossible for me to recall them all without some kind of help. Letting iTunes shuffle the songs in the library could quite seriously turn into the soundtrack to my life.

At a table in the Cock and Bull, during an evening in which I would forget to close out my tab and suffer the “convenience fee,” a friend of mine, Brian Hughes, asked an excellent question to those present. He wondered if we still made strong connections to songs like we did when we were younger. Linking songs to other events seems to peak in the teenage years—after all, nothing aids poignancy like hormones and bad skin (I know something about both). I replied at the time that I do still form such bonds with songs, but not quite as frequently as I once did.

I stick by the answer, but tonight I discovered a whole new aspect to that process. Tonight, I discovered that it’s possible to form a bond with a song without accessing that until some time later. Call if forming future memories, if you like (I do, that’s why I named the post this way). I didn’t realize at the time, but that duet of “Fly With Me” was going to pop back up four years later. I have a feeling that many more years from now, that song will arise again in our lives.

There are plenty of things that I can’t share with my traveling companions yet. I’m looking forward to it all quite a bit. It took several years to reach the point we’re at now, and we’ll get to more good stuff as time goes on. As I drove, and sang, and listened, in the dark tonight, I thought of another song that they’re not ready for just yet. But it’s one that’s stuck in my mind since 1998 when it first arrived for me. For me, those are halcyon days, sepia tone memories tinged with golden halos, music and laughter echoing throughout, with nothing to see but the faces of some of the finest people I will ever know, places with memories so thick they litter the ground like autumn leaves, moments and stories when all sang the chorus on key and every glass was forever full. One day I’ll share that with my traveling companions. That too, is a future memory. But for now, I’ll share it with you. Courtesy of Grooveshark, and dedicated to all those who raised a glass, told a story, and scratched on the eight ball at 855 Ostrom, and to all who would have been welcome (which is all of you). To Future Memories, my friends.

A circle, in more ways than one.

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