by J.D. Roth
Sometimes my childhood memories aren’t really memories at all — they’re moods, or impressions. I don’t remember a specific time or place or event, but remember a feeling. I remember how it felt to go to Grandma’s house. I remember how it felt to visit the train station. I remember the glow from endless days of summer.
Mostly I do remember details, though these often form a confusing jumble of time, place, event, and emotion. I can’t be sure that the individual memories I have are correct: maybe I’ve recombined several memories, drawing on the location of one memory, combining it with the events of a second, adding the emotions of a third.
Memories are like this.
For example, when I was a boy, my family lived in a trailer house in the Oregon coutnryside. We were poor. We did not have a television (though I believe this was more of a philosophical choice than a financial one on the part of my parents). In the evening, my family read and listened to music.
My father was a big Neil Diamond fan. He loved ABBA. He often listened to Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. (Thus it is no surprise that these are all favorites of mine now.) Mostly, he listened to classical music.
Though we didn’t have much, we did have a nice component stereo, including a silver receiver with big knobs, and a top-of-the-line turntable. I can remember the night Dad bought the stereo equipment from a small store in Beaverton. I can remember the record shop’s dimly lit rooms were filled with record bins. I can remember the Bee Gees strutting over the store’s speakers. I can remember heading home with the Star Wars soundtrack, a couple of Mannheim Steamroller albums, and a small collection of classical music.
I had no formal musical education (aside from two years of violin in fifth and sixth grade), but I learned a lot from listening to Dad’s classical records. He was passionate about them. I learned to love Beethoven’s sixth symphony (the Pastorale). I learned to love Bizet’s Carmen Suite and Grieg’s Peer Gynt. I learned to love Also Sprach Zarathustra. I learned to love Mozart and Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov.
When I think of my childhood, my first thought is not of a particular time or place or event; it is a feeling, an emotion, a sense of peace. A vague, non-specific scene. I remember a cool autumn night — the early darkness — sitting in the trailer’s living room on a baroque floral couch (a couch that went with me to college). The wall-mounted kerosene sconces are lit. The dishwasher is humming. There is a fire in the wood stove. The birds are squawking in their cages, or perhaps sitting on the curtain rods. A small and stinky dog is curled next to Jeff on one end of the couch. I am on the other end, reading a book. We are listening to the Cosmos soundtrack: soaring strings, pulsing electronic beats, the haunting Bulgarian Shepherdess Song.
A vasty darkness surrounds the trailer, yet inside is a womb of warmth and light and music.
This is what I remember.
A previous entry, Twenty-Two Year Reflection, is related to this entry.
Updated: 21 October 2005