I read somewhere that scent and memory are strongly linked, because of the way the brain works. You smell Coppertone sunblock, and suddenly you’re back on that beach in fifth grade, the time Angie Biederknapp let you put cornrows in her blond hair.
Wait, I totally made that up. Let me think of a real one.
Seagrams 7. If I smell whiskey, I think of my dad, who liked to sit on our back porch and drink a 7-and-7 after dinner in the summer. Every time. I think of one specific time, too, when I was in first grade, and we lived in Mentor, Ohio, in a green house, and there was a playground behind us. Dad was sitting on the porch, drinking his 7-and-7, and I’d already had my bath for the night.
So yeah, I get the link between scent and memory.
But I’ve always had a strong link between music and memory, as if certain memories have a soundtrack all their own.
When I was in sixth grade, I went to a school mixer. (i.e., a dance) It was a Catholic grade school, and there was only one class each of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, so you can imagine there weren’t more than 75 people at this “dance.” I was a dork, so no one asked me to dance. But finally, near the end of the night, this boy named Ryan said he felt bad for me and asked me to dance with him. The song was “Love of a Lifetime” by FireHouse. He smelled (there it is) like his father’s cologne, and I called my mom from a pay phone afterwards, so excited that a boy had asked me to dance.
My first real kiss was a boy named Ian something (clearly left an impression), listening to “With or Without You” by U2 in a grocery store parking lot, in the front seat of my 1989 Honda Accord. (Hey. I’m old.) He put his hand up my shirt, and I felt scandalous for letting him. We made out for the entire duration of the song, and into the silence that followed. Then the tape flipped sides (again, I’m old) and “Mysterious Ways” started cranking, making us both jump.
The day that I got the call from my agent, I drove home from work on cloud 9, listening to “Blow Away” by A Fine Frenzy. I cranked the volume, going 80 mph on the Harrisburg Expressway. I will always link that song to getting “the call.”
But the strongest one, for me, is the song “Only You,” by Joshua Radin. When Nick was born, it was the week before Mother’s Day. Nick spent eight days in the NICU, meaning I spent eight days in the NICU. There was a television in his room, and JC Penney was running a Mother’s Day ad non-stop, featuring that song. It’s a touching ad. Ever time I hear the song, I’m back in the AAMC NICU, listening to the beep and hush of the monitors, learning how to be a new mom.
And that’s possibly the sweetest music memory of all.