On my way to work I heard a song I literally had not heard since the summer of 1969 when I was five years old. I recognized it from the first chord--it fired every neuron in my body sending a visceral jolt of electricity to my fingertips and tears to my eye. This is how I experience memories...as music, snapshot visuals, feelings and smells. I'm abysmally bad at recalling past events but I always remember the feelings and aura of the memory if not the specific details. I'm more likely to remember how you smell rather than how you look.
I reconnected with a childhood family friend on Facebook. He wanted to take a walk down high school memory lane. He said, "Hey Red, remember that fight in front of your church between Troy and Don B." No, I didn't. All I remembered was a vague sense of unease, the gravestones in the little church yard with high grass growing between the stones. "How can you not remember that--the fight was over you?"
"But why would anyone fight over me," I wondered. I remembered Troy was my boyfriend, but I don't remember the other guy at all. It was embarrassing, this whole walk down memory lane because I couldn't recall the same details he did. "Well, remember the time you broke up with that guy and he cried?" Nope, don't remember that, but this makes sense that he should react so strongly to the little red candy store closing. "How about the time you ripped the door off your orange VW bug by backing out of your garage with your car door open?" Yep, I remembered that because of the consequences meted out by my angry father were long lasting. Funny, but a certain quality of light, a certain smell, or music can rekindle memories, but not necessarily the facts.
The song on the radio was a cover of the Young Bloods, "Darkness Darkness". It was the summer Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the summer of the Manson murders and the Woodstock concert, however, as a five year old I don't remember that stuff, but rather snapshot visuals of myself jumping on my parent's bed jubilant that I had a new baby sister, while I played over and over my brother's album. On the same 1969 reel, I recall a visual of my brother running around the track while struggled to hold on to the stone wall I had to climb to spy on him. I adored my older brother. I wanted to be like him. He was so fast and I soaked up his music like a sponge. I played it over and over until it fused in my bones.
40 years later, I reacted almost viscerally to hearing this song again. It has the quintessential 60's folk rock vibe that I've always adored. The lyrics are beautiful and haunting and put into words 40 years of trying to hide from pain. I've done it through drinking, drugs, food, sex and running. That night I stopped by the house to pick up my daughter. She was going to run the 1 mile at the Heideman Race at Goodyear Heights Metro park, while I helped out the running club. I told my ex about this song, how I adore it, how if I die before he does I want him to play it at my funeral. He kind of looked at me funny, but was totally serious. It's perfect. I pulled the song up on Youtube. He remembered it too. Great song.
I left with my daughter and off we went to the Heideman race. My daughter was out to win bling on the mile kids' race. I poured a million cups of Gatorade and watched the kids run down the sled hill. Gosh, they were beautiful. My daughter finished the mile in a respectable 10:30 pace for the hot day and tough grassy course, but she stopped to walk a bit and ended up finishing mid to back of the pack. I thought she did great, but no bling. She was disappointed. She thought she should have run the 400 meter and then, for sure, she'd probably win something. I tried to explain it's not about winning--it's about challenging yourself. Working through the pain. It's not always better to do take the easier, softer way.
We were late getting back. My ex was worried, pacing the house and calling repeatedly my cell phone--he heard a chorus of sirens near Goodyear Park and his worry wart nature had him thinking we were dead in an accident--my request for "Darkness, Darkness" at my funeral, a dark premonition of fate. I thought it was sweet, realized how much he loves me, in spite of the pain I've caused him in running away from own pain. I still want "Darkness, Darkness" played at my funeral. In the 40 years it's been since I first heard this song, I've learned a few things about pain. First--we all have it. Nobody is spared pain, whether it be emotional or physical, we all endure pain. Here's the biggie--it's OK to work through the pain. Feel it. It's human. Don't hide it or run away from it. Share it. It makes people feel less alone. Connect.
Darkness darkness, hide my yearning For the things that cannot be Keep my mind from constant turning Towards the things I cannot see now Towards the things I cannot see now The things I cannot see now
Darkness darkness, long and lonesome Is the day brings me here I have found the edge of sadness I have known the depths of fear
Darkness darkness, be my blanket Cover my with the endless night Take away away the pain of knowing Fill the emptiness of right now The emptiness of right now Fill the emptiness of right now
Darkness darkness, be my pillow Take my head and let me sleep In the coolness of my shadow In the silence of my dream
Darkness darkness, be my blanket Cover my with the endlesss night Take away away the pain of knowing Fill the emptiness of right now In the emptiness of right now In the emptiness of right now