I stopped dead in my tracks the other day in AC Moore (Hobby store) and I suddenly had to fight the overwhelming urge to cry. It wasn't in response to the quote I had just been given to frame a poster I got in Chimney (Chode) Rock National Park, although that did make my eyes water (not the chode - the quote! Focus!). The reason was I heard a song playing! A song I haven't heard for 20 years. Why a song that can evoke such emotion isn't on my i-pod I don't know. It isn't even in my CD collection. It would have been on a cassette tape - compiled myself from records and long ago discarded! I may never have remembered the song again if I hadn't heard it. The song* itself isn't the best - but we all have them- songs that bring back a 1000 memories. I was transported back to 1989. A time when I thought anything was possible. It clashed hard with me standing in the store now knowing fuck all is ever likely! It made me feel very sad!
By coincidence a few days later I had another blast from that past. An old boyfriend on Facebook. I'm not sure why but I had tried to contact him 2 years ago on Friends Reunited and he had just picked up the message... or the courage to respond. (I was a bit mad back then). I'm not sure how healthy it is that modern technology connects us so easily with a past that years ago would have stayed just that- the past- occasionally remembered because of an old photo or music. Now I have to combine those snapshots of 1989 in my head with today. Facebook brings out the voyeur in us all. Maybe I wanted to tie up loose ends in my head. What we hope we will find is those boyfriends who dumped us are fat and bald and on the dole. For the record he still has all his hair (if a lot shorter) and looked pretty good to me!
I don't have a photographic memory but I remember things in snap shots - stills, that if I try hard I can add movement and sound and smells to. Sometimes remembering those pictures is triggered by a smell or sound - like the old song. I have a whole album's worth of songs and photographs for those 4 months of 1989 - living in Manchester, at university, in love and having a wild time in rock bars. I had such a great time. It was over pretty quickly but I remember it more vividly than whole years of my life! I wish it was the happiness of the time that the song had conjured up - not the 6 months of sadness I felt at the time when it ended. If I'm honest I remember that more! I worry that it is the stressful and unhappy things that are strongest in our memories- those things that bring out intense emotions.
Sometimes things happen in a second and get filed with the photos in my brain for a lifetime. Like this morning- the kids had all got on the yellow school bus and the pre-schoolers were hanging around waiting to go to nursery while the moms chatted. One of them picked up his scooter and whizzed down his drive just as a car turned around the corner. All slow motion until I took the mental snapshot of the impact. A frozen image of the horror. People drive very slowly round here, they are not aggressive. If you hear a horn beep the car will have a New York number plate on it. The driver had stopped at the point of impact and the little boy bounced really well. As soon as he cried I knew he was OK. Not a mark on him but I will carry that photograph forever. Life changing moments!
I wonder now what it might be - the smell, the song, the taste of something- that stops me dead in my tracks 20 years from now and brings me back to my strange time in a strange land. What snapshots will I put in the photo album of my mind now to look at when I am prompted to remember? I wonder most of all what emotion will overwhelm me looking back and remembering my time in America. I guess I have some part to play in that in the present. Focus on the positives, remember the fun and laughter and don't take any photographs of the times I don't want to recall again! Easy!