I’ve always been fascinated by the way the human memory works. What is it that makes some memories so vivid and others so dim that we can barely make them out? Over the last few weekends, I’ve spent time in my hometown because I’ve needed car repairs, and my parents have been generous enough to take care of them given my current financial situation. Driving through town, I’d be reminded of events from my childhood and was sorry to see so much change in the town. This past weekend I spent several days and found my brain flooded with memories. As my dad and I stopped at a very popular donut shop that all my childhood friends raved about, but that I had somehow missed in all those years there, I was reminded of the time my best friend and I ventured from her house to that same shopping center. She didn’t live far from it and in the 80s it wasn’t as dangerous for us to be out by ourselves. But this is where my memory starts to get obscured and foggy, much like the weather that settled in over the town every winter. I know we either walked or went on our skateboards down the street and around the corner. I remember looking across at this shopping center. I remember thinking that if our parents found out, we just might get in trouble. But I can’t remember if we actually ever crossed the street! Part of my memory says yes, another part says no.
When I mentioned going to the donut shop to my friend, she reminded me of Hot Dog on a Stick, a place in the mall that we often went to with our moms. I don’t think I got the actual hot dogs all that often, but I do remember us getting lemonades. And the one storefront I remember vividly was the churro shop. Yes, we had an actual churro shop in the mall. And not just any shop; it was like something out of a Keebler elf commercial. We were fascinated by the automated figures that walked around this tree-like structure in the back of the shop. We would order our churros and stand there watching these little elves. Sadly, that shop went out of business decades ago and the mall itself is hardly recognizable to me. But the memory of that place and those experiences with my friend will live on in my brain, like so many others.
Songs also have a way of flooding the brain with memories. Driving my car back to my parent’s house, two songs that I distinctly associate with several good childhood friends came on the radio. It was as if the universe wanted me to remember these things, perhaps as a reminder that things haven’t always been so difficult. The first song that came on was Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes. My friend Maureen and I sang that song often when we were kids. I’m not sure why we loved it, but we did. Maybe it was the husky voice we liked so much. After that, Kiss Him Goodbye came on, a song that I sang with my friends Michelle and Lisa at a recording booth during an 8th grade trip to Great America. Those were such carefree and happy times. And those trips down memory lane brought up other memories. Singing Abracadbra in the back of my mom’s station wagon as she drove us to a slumber party. Singing and dancing to Olivia Newton John’s songs at a birthday party. The roller skating parties where you always hoped the boy or girl you had a crush on would skate with you during the couples skate. A childhood filled with memories of happy, carefree times. We weren’t in a rush to grow up. We wanted to stay young and free of responsibility for as long as possible. As an adult, I remember these times with great nostalgia. And I know that the universe is sending me signals, triggering my memories so that I can get through the difficult times with a little more ease. And in 20 years, I hope to look back on “adulthood” with the same sense of nostalgia with which I see my childhood now.