Friday, March 16, 2012

Songs Are Like Tattoos

Day 3 of The Scintilla Project where the goal is to write a response to a prompt every day for two weeks. Today’s prompts are 1.) Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song, or 2.) what’s the story of your most difficult challenge in a relationship?

Funny how small things spark memories.

The smell of Jergen’s hand lotion floods me with memories of my mother’s hands. She would purposely pour out excess lotion, and say to me, “Oh look, I have too much. Bring me your hands.” She would grasp my fingers and our hands danced off the excess fluid.

I can’t clean the cat box without thinking about George Clooney (who ironically was arrested today). On a talk show Clooney a few years ago described an incident where a former roommate was sloppy about keeping the litter box clean. One day George himself pooped in the cat box. After that the roommate was vigilant about cleaning up after his cat.

Songs trigger permanent memories, too.

I was one of those kids who never wanted to go to bed. I might miss something. My mother had to bribe me with putting music on the Hi-Fi (For those of you under fifty, the Hi-Fi is a precursor to the stereo. It had a turntable for 45s (singles) or 33s (albums) and a solitary, giant speaker. And a closeable lid. It was an attractive piece of blonde wood furniture that could double as a table for a vase in front of a window. At bedtime, Mom would place up to five records at a time and bank on my brothers and I being asleep by the time the last album dropped onto the turntable. Her taste in music was eclectic. The best music to get elementary and junior high kids to sleep, (and most likely invite some romance with my dad if he wasn’t out of town) was jazz. My parents’ collection included greats like John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Gene Ammons, Ella Fitzgerald, Les and Larry Elgart, George Shearing and Thelonuius Monk. If Dad wasn’t home, Mom might select Etta James, B.B. King, or Louis Armstrong. We all liked show tunes, and owned soundtracks for West Side Story, Gypsy, South Pacific and Auntie Mame.

By the time we were teenagers, each of us had or own stereos( and headphones.), and our tastes grew more divergent, and my flavor in music devolved to The Monkees and David Cassidy.

My mother died a month after I turned sixteen, and I couldn’t listen to music that reminded me of her. The somber tones of Tchaikovksy and Sibelius cushioned me, provided a new soundtrack for my life that included years of veiled depression.

It’s too much of a cliché to say writing saved me. Writing was only part of the equation.

I listen to music when I write, paint, clean house, and read. Music plays in my car as I drive. I hate to fly, so in the 80’s and 90’s I carted cassette and CD players on board, and now my ipod serenades me to relax while 30,000 feet above.

I can’t identify a specific song as my favorite. In high school I ritually wallowed in broken-hearted breakups with boys during my Joni Mitchell years. (Her Blue album always sent me further inside my blues.) The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” is a great driving song, and Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” is my karaoke staple.

My first kiss and quasi boyfriend had a song: “In My Life,” by the Beatles. “There are places I remember….some are gone and some remain...In my life I have loved them all.”

Happy Writing.


  1. Joni Mitchell's "Blue" album is very evocative. Your parents' penchant for jazz certainly set you up for good taste in music.

  2. Well, now, this made me tear up a bit, my friend.