Memory Music Part II:

Continuing in a series about the way music unlocks memory...


I talked about this in my last post. Chances are good, you have a song that sends you somewhere. You have a lyric, chorus or bridge that brings a feeling that you haven’t had since ‘that day.’ It’s a God moment, an unexpected death, a year in school. Or maybe, a romance, a birth, a childhood friend, or just some vague feeling about who you used to be.

Last week, I spent two nights at high school reunion gatherings. On Friday night, I was listening to the radio on my drive to the first and more informal reunion deal at Edison Park Inn. A song by the band Chicago floated into the rental car and I flooded with an old sensation. Teenage adrenaline poured into my system. It had been a while since I felt that physical joy-rush. It’s a feeling that's hard to explain; A mix of something young, and expectant, and humming with ... well... hormones. It's a rush that lives back in high school, and gets replaced when maturity brings a more stable, less-wildly-hormonal, form of joy.

Chicago is a big part of my life soundtrack for high school. It runs as background music for dances, friendships, and TP'ing. And, most sentimentally, one significant boyfriend relationship is woven tight with Chicago songs. So, every once in a while one of their songs will hit deep and trigger a tender place.

The song I heard on the car radio technically belonged to my older brother and sister’s high school playlist. Chicago was a franchise that spanned a lot of siblings. My brother and sisters all liked Chicago partly because the trombone player, Jimmy Pankow, was from Park Ridge (our hometown, and northwest suburb of Chicago). "Saturday in the Park" was supposedly written about a local park we all knew and liked. The songs he wrote were closer to our neighborhood somehow. Over the years, the brass stayed, but the lead singer and power ballads changed.

My sister Kim's era of Chicago wasn't my ‘era’; hers was 1970’s “Color my World” and "Does Anybody ReallyKnow What Time it Is?" -- mine was 1980’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and "Hard Habit to Break." My brother's Chicago wasn't exactly the same as mine either, but there was definitely a lot of overlap. On the way to my reunion, their “Old Days” started to sing to me, and that bold young feeling come crashing into the driver’s seat.

As I was listening to lyrics about the 'good times I remember,' I started thinking about where I was headed. As Edison Park Inn got closer, my nerves started to undermine my confidence. The feelings that came with 'Old Days' evaporated. After circling the neighborhood in search of a parking space a couple times, I called my husband.

"What was I thinking, doing this alone?" I wanted an answer.

He put on his soothing coach voice,"You are doing this alone because you are a confident woman."

"Oh, yeah.... um ... and what makes you say that, specifically??" I needed details, but started to relax.

It took a little bit of mental work, to figure out how to step out of the car and mesh Who-I-was with Who-I-am. Especially since Who-I-Am really had no idea what to expect, or who she'd see, once she entered that place. It took some doing. But somehow my husband's words, and the mood of the music made a difference. By the time I got out of the car I was better ... ready to step into a night full of Chicago Old Days again. Turns out, it was a very sweet and memorable place to be.

My Sister's Chicago