Sound gives memory its depth.
I associate the sound of early morning sprinklers chattering across the neighborhood lawns with a drive home after a long night. I was in my early twenties and lost between the ideas of love and lust. I had just discovered an article of clothing, which was left behind by the girl that undressed in my backseat and allowed me a few moments of her time.
After moving through the Long Island parkways, I made it to my familiar side streets, and pulled into my driveway. I was living in a basement at the time, but I was not ready to go inside.
I pulled in and shut the ignition after rolling up the windows in my blue, beat up four-door Chevy. The sky had already been introduced to morning, but the sun had not made its official start. I opened the car door, stepped out, and locked the door behind me. Instead of going in, I walked around to the trunk of my car to sit and watch the rest of the sunrise.
I could hear the sounds of sprinklers chattering throughout my street. The block itself was wide, and no cars were allowed to park by the curb between the hours of 2:00am and 6:00am. I remember what I was thinking and how I felt. I remember laughing about the strange find of a girl’s underpants in my back seat. I laughed about the promise I made to call her in the morning—but that never happened.
I sat on the trunk of my car, watching Sunday morning come into view. I heard the birds begin to chirp, and the cicadas began to chatter. And for the moment, amongst the turmoil, everything was fine.
When I hear the song “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull, I am quickly reminded of a night in my youth, lying on the hill near the side of Parkway Elementary School, looking up at the stars, and laughing too loud.
Whenever I hear this song, I think about the two tabs of LSD known as Chill Pills, and an old friend named Dorian.
You would have liked Dorian.
He would have liked you too . . .
Whenever I hear the song “Life in a Northern Town” by a band called Dream Academy, I am reminded of the first time my older brother took me skiing. It was nighttime. I was too small and too uncoordinated. But mostly, I was too afraid, and I fell at the top end of the ski lift. My brother tried to teach me how to stand. He tried to teach me how to turn, but his best suggestion was when he tried to teach me how to stop.
“Just fall down,” he shouted.
Falling down was easy. It was getting back up that I had a hard time with. And after several attempts down the intermediate slope because the beginner’s hill was closed, and after only moving part of the way, my brother decided to ride me down, piggy back. He carried my poles in one hand, and his in the other. I held on around his neck, and as we traversed through the snowy moguls beneath the overhead lights, “Life in a Northern Town,” played throughout the speaker systems.
This is one of my best memories of my brother. We didn’t always get along . . . but in the end, he was always there to carry me down.
Different music place me at different times throughout my life, and the sound of that music is what gives my memory a vivid picture.
In 1985, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder sung, “That’s What Friends Are For.”
My Old Man loved this song. It reminds me of my old house on 277 Merrick Avenue; it reminds me of the old den and the large television, which was really a small screen placed inside a large wooden box.
When I hear this song, I can recall the couches and the old remote that worked the television. I seldom listen to it, but whenever the song comes on, I see it as a surprise, or more like a visit from The Old Man, himself.
Then of course, there is, “What a Wonderful World,” sung by Mr. Louis Armstrong. This reminds me of being a little boy.
The Old Man used to sing this with his best Louie Armstrong impression.
“I see skies of blue, and clouds of white. The bright blessed day, and the dark sacred night. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
There are no lyrics or prose as pure as this.
I love this song, though I rarely listen to it. I suppose I listen to it most when I feel as if I need The Old Man like a son needs his father.
The purity stings a bit . . . but sometimes things have to hurt if they are to heal.
When my daughter was two, she fell in love with the Disney Stories. She fell in love with the music from these stories as well.
Before this, I heard Jiminy Cricket sing “When You Wish upon a Star,” countless times and I never thought anything of it.
I assume I never listened to the lyrics, at least, not until parenthood.
After parenthood, I came into the understanding of mortality. I learned about humanity, and more, I learned about the most powerful, four-letter word in the world.
That word is, “Love.”
“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires, will come to you.”
And it did come to me.
It came to me in the form of a little body, with little arms, legs, feet, and fingers. And standing one night in the middle of Downtown Disney, looking up while holding my daughter, and watching the sky explode in colorful sparkles and shimmering fireworks.
I heard the voice of Jiminy Cricket
“Like a bolt out of the blue, suddenly it comes in view. When you wish upon a star, your dreams—come—true.”
For the first time in my life, I saw my own true value. I saw my own beauty, and I saw myself as a deserving soul, alive, and living well beneath the care of God the Father.
I am older now, but I am not so old that I cannot hear these beautiful sounds and place them perfectly with my memories.
I will leave you with this by Louis Prima; this is another song that comes with a memory. It’s an oldie, but its memory is one of the best I have.
“Buona Sera, signorina, buona sera. It is time to say goodnight to Napoli.
Though it’s hard for us to whisper, buona sera with that old moon above the Mediterranean Sea.
In the mornin’ signorina we’ll go walkin’ when the mountains help the sun come into sight,
and by the little jewelry shop we’ll stop and linger, while I buy a wedding ring for your finger.
In the meantime let me tell you that I love you.
Buona sera, signorina kiss me goodnight.”
Buona sera. signorina kiss me goodnight