I used to think that there were only a handful of songs that could completely transport me to a different time & place, but as I’m getting older I’m finding that my playlist is growing, too.   Now there are songs that remind me of moments with my children, songs that remind me of my family, and some that remind me of myself. The songs that remind me of myself are especially cherished; a cheap and easy way to transform me – on the spot – from everyday working mom into a child, a teen, or a clueless twenty-something.

For instance, whenever I hear the catchy beat of the 70’s instrumental Love’s Theme by Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra, I’m immediately transported back to the favorite roller skating rink of my youth – the Skate Ranch.  If you were a kid in the late 70’s/early 80’s than I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that roller skating was HUGE. It was a singular love of mine and the Skate Ranch was THE place to skate in Orange County.  And every time Love’s Theme pops up on my iPod playlist, I’m instantly a kid at the Skate Ranch again.  I can vividly recall the feeling of teetering on roller skates, hanging onto the wall that ran around the oval shaped rink, and the shimmer of the disco ball spinning overhead.   Even more remarkable, Love’s Theme can open a portal into my deeper memory, unlocking distinct memories of the entire 70’s era including useless information like the fact that the Love Boat aired on Saturday nights at 8 and was immediately followed by Fantasy Island at 9 on my local ABC station.  I may not remember where I left my car keys tonight when I got home, but I can tell you about the episode where Gopher and Julie kissed for the first time.

The songs on my life’s playlist capture mundane moments and make them appear magical, just as well as they allow me to recall Love Boat minutiae. Because song has that way of elevating even the dullest memories into something special, I now associate Take It To The Limit by the Eagles with a long-ago early morning drive east on I-10 through the California desert in my grandparent’s white Ford Maverick.  I can’t recall where we were going, but the vividness of the moment is only brought to life by the soundtrack my brain has permanently meshed with the experience.  Take it to the Limit is a sunrise over the desert, with a rear window cracked open and  the smokey scent of chaparral wafting through the open windows.

I also have strong linkages of songs to specific people. Even a mere mention of Olivia Newton-John and I’m standing in the middle of  Zody’s, shopping for school clothes with my mom as Xanadu plays over the store’s speakers.  I remember wanting nothing more than a feathered roach clip to hang from my hair and a shoulder-baring peasant dress to wear to school.  For the record, I didn’t get either of those things, but I am still a huge Olivia Newton-John fan.

A summer afternoon car ride listening to 80’s radio, brings about memories of singing Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Lepard,  in my first car – an ‘82 Dodge Colt. High school was never my favorite time of life but the unmatched exhilaration of an after school ride, windows open, stereo blasting, best friend singing along with me – the memory of that blissful moment almost helps me to understand why some adults never mature beyond the age of 16…almost.

Whenever I hear Be My Baby by The Ronettes, it reminds me of the long anticipated moment when David & Maddie on Moonlighting finally surrendered to all the sexual tension and (in teen parlance) “got busy”.  The song is so intertwined with this very specific memory that I have a hard time imagining it on a soundtrack to any other piece of film or television.  Like brilliant product placement, the two have become one for me – Be My Baby = Moonlighting.  

Tennessee Williams was quoted as saying, ‘In memory everything seems to happen to music.”   It’s so true. With the advent of social networking and increased music sharing, today’s world is simultaneously expanding and narrowing in on a collective narrative punctuated by musical interludes and interstitials I never realized existed before.  Recognizing this phenomenon now, I feel like I finally “get” the big deal behind The Big Chill to the boomer generation.  It may have been the first contemporary film to capture the essence of an era via its music.

That feeling of history and connectedness that music brings to our lives is something I want my children to grow up with.   So I’m taking a cue from the filmHigh Fidelity and making them a mix tape – of sorts.  I’m making each  of them their own playlist with songs that meant a lot to me when I was pregnant with them and that we sang as we grew up together. Obviously this is a long-term project – something I’ll continue to develop and groom over the years.  It’s a project I undertake with pleasure, as their journey is my own.  

In time I suspect heartfelt conversation will be a precious commodity between myself and my kids.  One of the very last things we may share freely (besides our DNA) will be our memories of their youth – relived through the language of music.  Yes, I believe Love Will Keep Us Together but I’m certain the The Sound Of Music will always give us Something To Talk About.

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