"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open."
Dorothy Allen

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I collect souvenirs. 

I don't really mean souvenirs of places I've been, or trips I have taken, although I do have a few of those as well.  I mean things that I keep with me, in my heart and soul that are reminders of times and experiences I have had, and people I have known. 

Some of these souvenirs are physical.  The most ridiculous (or awesome, depending on what you think) was a pair of boxer shorts, green plaid, that I had from a boy I knew in college.  I had gone for dinner- NOT a date- and being my typical awesome self, spilled something all over myself.  He loaned me these shorts to wear, so that we could eat and chat and I wouldn't have to be constantly aware of the spaghetti sauce or pop or whatever it was all over me.  I kept them until they, very literally, fell apart. I am not sure why, but it was always a good memory for me.  I thought of him whenever I put them on. Nothing romantic, nothing mind blowing, just a warm fuzzy memory.

Some of them are not so tangible.  Sometimes it is a smell- a whiff of a particularly yeasty beer will remind me of a certain time, smelling BBQing chicken another.  Certain perfumes, even my own favourites (if you are wondering, my favourite is still White Musk, from the Body Shop) will bring waves of memories back to me.   The smell of a camp fire, the taste of Red Nib licorice, or a particular band of draft beer...God, sometimes, I am taken right back.  If you are with me, and I am lost in thought, I am probably being overwhelmed with the specific stimuli that is pounding through my brain and body.  No wonder Sebastian stims, he got it genetically from me.  The difference here is- I welcome mine.

The most powerful and poignant souvenirs I have, though, are songs.  I think that is true of everyone.  There are always certain songs that will remind you of a person in your life, or a situation.  Of course, my wedding song (The One by Elton John) reminds me of Geoff.  There is also the first one we danced too (She talks to Angels by the Black Crowes) and one of the many songs he put on mixed tapes for me (In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel is a big one.  But then, what girl my age doesn't have something associated to that song?  It's just usually John Cusack with the big ass radio.  Ahhhhh, Lloyd Dobler, how I love you.  But I digress).

Most of these songs are not songs that I hear that often.  I guess that's good.  To hear them over and over would make them not so special. I think the impact- that blow to the gut, the one that makes my breath catch and hitch, that makes it feel like a shot of whiskey is glowing low and hot in my belly- that feeling would go away.  And I don't ever, EVER want that to happen.  I want to be 80, sitting on my porch, with my grandkids climbing all over.  I want my oldies station to be playing in the background and I want the song on the radio to still take my breath away.  I want to still be able to think about that person, or that place, or that thing, and smile my secret quiet smiles. To feel that same burn in my old bones.

I very seriously doubt that the people wrapped up in the memories of the following songs will see themselves in them.  And that's ok.  These are my souvenirs, not theirs.  It would be amazing if they had their own versions of these memories, but I really don't need to know that.  I think my fear is that the memory that I hold close and dear was nothing special to them.  When it is just mine, then I get to remember it the way I want to.  I can rub off the rough corners, smooth it down, so that it fits comfortably in the palm of my hand.  I can ignore the dark spots, and focus on the light.  But then, I am a girl, in case you have forgotten.  I think this is a girl thing.  We obsess, we assign meaning, and we remember.  Oh yeah, we remember.

But if you do see yourself, right or wrong, be flattered.  Seriously.  Be flattered.  It means you shaped me into who I am today.  It means in those quiet moments, early in the morning with the sun playing across my bed or in the car, with the radio cranked and the tears on the verge- I am thinking about you. 

About you. 

I can think of no greater compliment than that.  I would be thrilled to know that sometimes, somewhere, I cross someone's mind.  That they feel a tug in their heart and their gut when they think of my smile, or my laugh, or the way I fell on my ass that one time.  If a song came on the radio, and the kids in the backseat and the spouse beside them fell away for a second, and they remembered how my hair smelled. 

A word of warning:  I am not going into details with the memories.  I am not naming names, or places or anything like that.  It's private, and even I, the divulger of all things secret, have my boundaries.  But understand, these memories are not always about boys and girls and the things that boys and girls can sometimes do.  There is no need to feel horrible for Geoff when you read these.  I am not a whore.  At least, I don't think I am. :)

This song takes me to the summer just before my last year of high school.  It makes me think of hot summer nights, long days at the beach.  I can feel wind in my hair.  It also makes me remember a time when I didn't believe or understand my own worth.  I didn't ever believe that I would be good enough.  I did, however, learn to be surprised by people, who were gentle and kind, when I didn't expect it.  I learned that boys will be boys, especially when that is all that you ever expect them to be.  If you want more, you have to expect more.  And you can't expect people to believe in you, when you don't believe in yourself.

This one is around the same timeframe.  Late high school and a bit after.  It's not the best or the most touching of songs :) but it still makes me think of the people in my life at that time.  When I listen to this song, I can smell bonfires, and beer and sun warmed leather.  I can hear a certain voice in my head.  I think about the shock of finding out that something that you thought was out of reach, something that you hoped for but never dared think you would ever get, might, might actually be in your grasp.  And how being a chicken shit coward can take all of that away.  It doesn't sound like a happy memory, but it is.  It has made me much stronger.  And I miss you.

Jeez. This one was a toss up.  There are a lot of songs associated with this time and the people wrapped up in this souvenir.  This was college.  A good time, but also a really hard time.  Being away from home for the first time.  Being a grown up, sometimes, and sometimes, making really stupid choices.  This makes me think of being presented with choices- big ones.  Life changing ones.  About taking chances.  Do you go with what's easy?  Do you pick what you know?  Shit, who knows?  This song, when I hear it, is all about the "what ifs" in life.  This song smells like beer and clean sweat and cold fall nights.  It smells like Arby's and awkwardness, and really being scared of doing the wrong thing, but so much wanting to try.  Again, it is about how you block yourself, and how not making a choice is really a choice that you make. 

Still at college.  This one is just fun.  It is a rare one for me, because this song reminds me what it is like to be wanted.  To have someone look at you, that certain way.  For someone to feel a bit of jealousy over you.  This song is about being at the bar, drinking like the boys.  It's about dancing until you are sweaty, and then a slow song comes on.  Sometimes, if the mood is right, and you are looking ok, there is someone to share the slow song with.  Nothing big.  No expectations.  No frantic grabbing or roaming hands.  Nothing like that.  It is the pressure in the small of your back, maybe fingers playing with the ends of your long hair.  It's about the unspoken offer, the unasked question.  It's not about the answer, but the lingering possibility.  This is about being young again.  I really hope every girl out there has a song and a souvenir like this.  Like I said, it is a rarity for me.  Maybe that's what makes it so special for me. :)

I'm older now, but still a bit lost.  Hell, just for the record, that still describes me today. No more school, but no kids yet. I am stumbling towards a future, with no idea about whether or not it is what I want, or where I am really going.  And sometimes, something comes along to pull you along for a bit.  Sometimes it is so fun and gratifying and exactly what you need.  And sometimes, it becomes too much.  Too real.  Again, it's about choices.  Do you change direction and throw out what you know?  Not me, as you can now probably tell.  I stick.  As much as I talk about moving, or changing, or everything else that I talk about, at the end of the day is responsibility.  I think of words that I would love to have used in my eulogy.  But I think the most accurate one would be responsible.  That's what I am.  I understand that.  It's not flashy, it's not always fun.  It's steady and constant.  But, sometimes, I throw it a little ways from me.  It's always there in the background, flashing a steady homing beacon at me.  Sometimes, I ignore it for a while.  This song is from when I ignored it.

There are others in my life.  Ones about my kids and my life as it is now.  I think I have talked about them before.  But lately, these songs have been swimming in my brain.  I think I know why, but it's nothing I can verbalize.  I think it is enough that I have put them out there.  That I have caught them in time. 

And yes, I am thinking about you.  Right now.  If we have a song, or if we need to find one, I am thinking about you.

Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "new songs, old songs".

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