The Power of Song

Sharon-1981Today I rode along with my husband to a distant dental office so we could continue on to do some shopping in that part of town after his appointment. Although I had not paid the least bit of attention to the background music, “The One that You Love” by Air Supply suddenly punched its way into my awareness as I sat reading in the waiting room.

For a few bars I sat stock still, listening with every fiber of my being, memory fragments flashing to the fore. I recalled a certain red suit I haven’t thought of for years and the open-toe slides I wore with it. I was transported back to our newly finished family room in Richland, a room I have not entered for twenty-six years. Rather strangely, no specific events or activities came to mind, but a flood of feelings hit me.

Following a hunch, I pawed through my purse and found a small sheet of paper and pen. I pegged the song as a 1982 hit (when I got home, I discovered it was actually 1981). I allowed the music to transport me back to that room on a bright May day, wearing that favorite suit and shoes. After soaking in the sound for a minute, I began jotting down the feelings and attitudes that came to mind.

Rather surprisingly, the first word that popped out of my pen was “foxy.” I don’t recall ever feeling foxy back then, but maybe it was just convenient to ignore that feeling. Mostly I felt wide open to ideas and opportunity, eager to learn and grow, and generally satisfied with the way life was unfolding and the progress my children were making.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and light. I also recalled feeling more than a little like I was acting from a script more than from self. I wasn’t exactly sure who self was yet, but hoped I was learning. I wasn’t sure I knew enough. And so on.

Of course as I brought these feelings to awareness and savored their nuances, certain events and experiences did speed across my mind.  I could have jotted those down, but should I decide to write in more depth later, I’ll remember them easily enough. The greater challenge would be to capture my mindset of that era, to get back into the character of me in that moment.

Fortunately my young teenage sons were seriously into Abba, Air Supply and Blondie, and I enjoyed them equally as much, so that music works like a charm, opening wide a portal to the past to revitalize the truth of those times and allow me to write of it with passion and depth.

Write now: pull out a favorite tune from forty or fifty years ago, or your teenage years (YouTube is full of music videos from bygone eras). Listen to it with pen and paper in hand. Play the song through one time while you relax with your eyes shut and allow the music to wash over you and send you back to that period in your life. Then play it again and note the feelings and memories that bubble to the surface. Use these notes to enrich a story about some event that comes to mind.


Linda said...

Oh, I'm with you! Old songs stir up such memories and emotions. They help us remember things we'd long forgotten so that makes them a helpful tool in writing memoir. You look amazing in that red outfit, too. :)


kathleen said...

Sharon, I agree that hearing certain songs has an amazing ability to transport us back in time and stir up all sorts of emotions from that time. Indeed, listening to those songs can prompt memories. I'm working on the early 1970's and need to listen to "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog" to get my memory juices flowing! BTW ,you do look foxy in that red suit :-)

Jerry Waxler said...

This is a great exercise, Sharon, but I'm having a funny reaction to it. Instead of finding a song of my own, I find myself stuck on that scene of you sitting in the car pulling a pad of paper out while listening to the radio. It's one of the amazing privileges of getting older is that we have the ability to travel in time from one period of our lives to another. I feel so sorry for my younger self. I look back on him and realize he didn't have the power to see his older self, but I have the ability to see both of us. :)

Memory Writers Network

Sharon Lippincott said...

Linda and Kathy,
Glad you like the suit. I was hoping to look *professional* in it, not foxy. LOL! Hope you both find perfect memory-stirring tunes to listen to.

Sharon Lippincott said...

If music wasn't part of your life at any given time, if you didn't keep the radio on or whatever, it won't help with the travels. I find that when I "travel back" as you put it, it's definitely a visit. I never have the feeling I'm "there" again. And how I wish I could travel forward. Or ... maybe not.

Herm said...

You did look professinal but it was the shoes and the pose that gave birth to foxy. ;-)

Her girlfriends kept telling me how much she liked me. We'd never met, but finally after several weeks at parties we'd attend, I asked her to dance. It was a slow romantic song. She was nervous. I was flattered. I heard that oldie a few days ago and there she was, so we danced. It was all right there in my mind: sight and sound.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Hey Herm,
Yes, I see that too -- now. And in retrospect, I realize that foxy was there -- I just wasn't ready to own it right then.

You give a delicious description of that slow dance. Now we want to hear the rest of the story. :-)

Herm said...

Of course you do. lol