Driving down the highway just before sunrise, I flip through radio stations, quickly passing through morning shows to find just the right song. I hear the familiar guitar riff and I know this is what I was looking for.
The memories flood into my mind and suddenly it's the summer of 1999. I'm in the red Cavalier, dressed up in my favorite blouse and black mini skirt. The car smells of my perfume. It's late at night and I'm driving down a country road, surrounded by cornfields on either side. I'm headed out to see the new man in my life. It's been a hot summer in more ways than one, and the Latin flavor of the song seems to raise the temperature just a few more degrees.
For as long as I can remember, music has been inextricably linked to certain memories. They're not usually profound moments in my life and the song isn't necessarily one I enjoy listening to, but somehow the music has been permanently woven into a memory that's often connected to someone I love.
Music has always been more than chords and melodies for me. It's emotional, it's personal, it's part of my story, and shapes the way I remember the world.
Here's a sampling from the musical journey of my life:
After my parents divorced, my mom would let my sister and I stay up on Friday nights to watch music videos. There are many songs etched into my mind from that time period, but this one never fails to bring back memories of those late nights and happily dancing around the living room with my sister in our pajamas.
The year was 1988 and it was the first time I was allowed to go to the County Fair without parental supervision. I remember this song playing repeatedly on my favorite ride, the Matterhorn. It was so fast it created wind in my hair. The gravitational force pulled my friends and I together as we spun around, making us scream and laugh at the same time. It was pure joy being young and wildly free for the first time.
I'm seventeen years old, driving home from the movies after a double date with my sister and her new boyfriend. We're laughing and carrying on as this song plays in the background. I'm keeping an eye on the back seat. I'm watching out for my sister as always, unsure about the intentions of this kid she's dating with the Dutch-boy haircut. (It turns out he's an amazing person who's been married to my sister for 15 years and counting...)
Flash forward to 2002 and I'm on a road trip to northern Michigan with my bestie. We're driving along US-31, hugging the shore of Traverse Bay. The sky is a beautiful patchwork of blue, lavender, pink, and orange. I make some smart-alecky comment about it being a hazy shade of winter. She laughs hysterically at the odd remark. "What?" I say, "It's a song!" We stop at a department store later that day and I pick up The Bangles' Greatest Hits to play on the way home. To this day, wintery skies make me grin a little inside.
It's 2013 and I'm headed home for my dad's funeral. I'm sitting in the Detroit airport after flying on the red eye from Seattle. The sun has just risen and is shining brightly through the big windows overlooking the runway. I close my eyes and feel the warmth on my face. Suddenly I'm overcome by the sensation of being surrounded with light. I feel as though he's there, watching over me. This song begins playing on my phone. The first lyrics of the song are fitting for this moment and the rhythm is perfectly in sync with my beating heart.