I was on my way to Home Depot last Saturday afternoon to pick up some drain cleaner, a roll of duct tape and a small ball peen hammer. Nice day, sunny and warm, better than usual for this time of year and then the radio played it. It was our song, Mary Jane Shimkey’s and my song. I turned it up and listened to the whole thing as thoughts of Mary Jane flashed in front of me (I wonder what she’s doing, I wonder if she’s married, I wonder if she’s happy, I wonder if she ever got that thing on her ear removed). There I was listening and falling back into one memory after another and driving and listening and day dreaming and when the song was over I looked up and I had passed Home Depot and was coming up on Lowe’s. I cleared my throat and said something to myself about wanting to go to Lowe’s anyway and then when I tried to think about Mary Jane again she was gone with the song. Memories are pretty powerful and so are the things that trigger those memories.
It usually doesn’t take long before people in casual conversations will bring up things they’ve done, places they’ve seen, adventures they’ve had, or people they’ve known. They may get all misty and talk about the associated memories of the sights and sounds and tastes and smells and feelings related to those activities and those people. These are the things that make a memory complete. The sound of a hammer pounding a nail on the neighbor’s new garage reminding you of a tree house you built when you were ten. The smell of an asphalt road bringing back thoughts about riding your bike on a hot summer day. The sparkle of falling rain and thoughts of sunlight shimmering on the water as you fished at the lake with your friends. A song on the radio and the memory of old loves and old friends and old times. Associated memories can bring a world flooding back to you but to have those associated memories trigger deep feelings you first need to have those original memories.
I have those memories and the songs and sounds and feelings that go with them. I guess I feel kind of sorry for the kids today like my nephew Richie. Richie’s a good example. Now Richie has lots of memories about football and baseball and war but what is associated with the things that Richie has done and the adventures Richie has had? The feel of the couch, the taste of stale Doritos sitting in a bowl from last night, yellow Cheetos fingers, dirty socks, electronic noise and the sound of his mother screaming at him to get up off the couch and go out and get a job.
Richie will never know the simple joy of being lost in a memory. Richie will never know what it’s like to think about Mary Jane and her sweet voice and her hair falling down her back and that thing on her ear. I can’t wait to hear that song again. I think that thing was kind of dark brown with a hair in the middle.