Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory...

I have a crazy memory. I remember things that make no sense. Its almost photographic. When I was in school, I could remember where a certain fact was on the page of a book. I didn' have to study very much because I just remembered things. As I have gotten older, my memory is triggered by the strangest things. Music and smells bring back the most vivid memories for me.

I think it was George Straight who sang, "ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory, take you to a special place in time, completely change your frame of mind." The thing about music is that it can hit you when you least expect it. The song "100 years" was played at my wedding when the family and bridesmaids walked down the aisle. A few weeks ago, in a spin class, that song came on as the cool down song and I just about started to cry.

When I hear the Pet Shops Boys song, "Life in a Northern Town", I can smell the spring breeze blowing through the window of my room at the house I lived in during the 4th grade. Every year we'd open up the windows for the first time in March or April and the smell of Spring would come blowing through the house with a coolness. I had a radio and audio tape player and so many of the songs I heard during that time bring back the memory. I can almost feel that coolness on my skin.

Smells evoke the same feelings for me. I grew up in New Jersey and that part of the world has a very particular smell to it. The Fall smells like damp leaves, the Spring like cut grass and lilacs, the Winter like cold metal and the Summer like a fresh afternoon rain. I don't get the same feelings from smells here in the Northwest. Maybe when I move away from this place, I will, but for now it always just smells mossy.

Growing up, we had the biggest lilac bush you have ever seen right outside our back door. We often took pictures by it before we went to church on Easter Sunday. You would walk out the back down and the smell would fill you up. I loved that. A few years ago we planted a lilac right outside our front door. My favorite time of the year is when I smell it for the first time. I watch it when Spring approaches and can see when it is ready to bloom. Then, one day, I walk outside in the early morning to go for a run and I am overwhelmed by the smell - it hits me like a ton of bricks. My mind is flooded with memories.

I run the same 4.5 mile path during my weekday runs and there is one spot on that run that smells like home. It smells like the Jersey shore. I always forget about it. I get into my zone on my run and then breathe in and there it is. I don't know what produces that smell - a tree, the grass, a flower - but it is there.

I feel lucky that I have these things to open up the flood gates of my mind. We have so many memories in our brains that can remain untapped forever. It is a blessing to be able to have access to those memories. I never know when they are going to hit me, they are unexpected. Some days I get excited to get out of the house and into my day - just so I can see what will evoke a memory. I am fortunate that I have so many good memories. It is important to remember that everyday we are creating the soundtrack of our lives. Its good to go back and listen to it.

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