When I was a little girl my parents had records and most of the time they would play them when they were getting ready to go to a party. This was the mid 1960’s, and going to house parties was as common as smoking in your car with all your kids in the backseat with no seat belts on.
I was an only child and since there were only 4 channels on TV, and one of them in Spanish, I searched for entertainment constantly. I would play solitaire, reread and rearrange my comic books and play ball by bouncing it off the side of the house, but watching my parents getting ready for one of these parties was the most entertaining of all.
I always knew when they were getting ready because they would always turn the hi-fi up and put on their favorite record. I would quickly pack my little suit case up for the over night stay at the sitters and then I would walk back and forth from the front bathroom to the back bathroom to take turns watching my parents get ready. Watching my mom putting on her make-up and fixing her hair exactly right was just as interesting as my dad making faces in the mirror as he shaved. I remember my dad singing “Because of You” along with Tony Bennett while he rinsed off the shaving cream from his face and put on aftershave. My parents were in the best of moods and they would talk to me, as I sat on the toilet seat watching them, while I nodded my head up and down to their questions. The smell of the shaving cream and aftershave and hairspray and perfume, combined with the sound of my dad’s low happy singing is a favorite memory of mine. At that moment everyone in the house was happy and I was happy because of it.
As I grew older and could be left alone for short periods of time, I became more attached to the records and would wait for my parents to leave on errands, so I could play them. I loved singing along to Rosemary Clooney, and would pretend that the stairs going down to the living room were the entrance to the stage and I would prance down them to the introduction of the music. When I got to the bottom of the stairs I would belt out, “Come On-a My House” and pretend the spotlight was on me as I sang.
Recently, I saw an ad that arrived in the mail with a picture of a radio that is made to look old fashion. I’m sure you have probably seen them, too, in ads or in a catalogue. It’s a square wooden cabinet about 12” x 12” that has an am/fm radio. You can play DVD’s, cassettes, and what I was most interested in, records. For a while now, I have this desire to hear those old records again and I was thinking that I might just be able to find some of those records at a thrift store.
My sweet husband surprised me with one on Christmas and once the holidays were over I had the opportunity to go to the thrift store and look for the old records. As I flipped though a couple of albums, I stopped suddenly as I saw one that looked kind of familiar. I pulled it out and as I read the artists, I couldn’t believe it. It was the same record that I remembered listening to as a kid. What were the chances of all the thrift stores and of all the records that I would find the exact album that I was searching for, especially when I didn’t even remember what it was called? There it was, volume 2 of the series of albums put out by Columbia Records called, “Remember How Great…?”
Early this morning, after I got my coffee and as I waited for the house to warm up, I blew the dust off of the record and placed it on my new record player. I lifted the arm and slid it over in place and set it down gently, just like I would do as a child, so as not to scratch it, and held my breath for a second waiting for the sound to come…and there it was, “As I cruised out one eve-e-ning upon a night’s career. I spied a lofty clipper ship and to her I did steer.” Suddenly, I was a child again. I started clapping my hands and singing along just like I did when I was a kid. It was so funny how your memory remembers so many lyrics to so many songs and even if you don’t hear them for decades, it all comes back to you in a second.
I listened to all my old friends that morning, Percy Faith, “Song from Moulin Rouge;” The Chordettes, “Mr. Sandman;” Gogi Grant, “Wayward Wind;” The Champs, “Tequila;” and even teared up when Tony Bennett sang “Because of You.” And for a quick second, I could swear that I smelled shaving cream.
Whether it was my imagination or my dad visiting from the afterlife, as I tried to cling on to the smell, I thought how we never know when we are making a memory. We all have big memories of our wedding day or birth of our child, but the little things we do in our life, we never know, when we are in the mist of it, that we are making a memory until years later. I never knew when I was watching my dad shave that it would end up being one of my happiest memories. I had no idea that 40 years later I would try to relive that memory with the same music I listened to as a child. That is why it’s so important to live our life, as it is being recorded. As if every kind or mean word and every good or bad deed is being noted, because although others may forget, we never know which ones we will remember. It’s so important that what we remember is happy and the only way to do that is to be happy as much as we possible can.
Weeks before my dad died, on a very rainy day, my mom helped my dad get into his truck and open up the garage door. He wasn’t going any where, lord knows, that as sick as he was he couldn’t even drive around the block. He didn’t want to anyway, he just wanted to sit there, in his favorite truck, by himself watching one of his favorite things, the rain, and to think of his memories. Not just the big ones, but also all the little ones that he was wise enough to have made over the years. I could only hope that one of them is with me watching him shave and listening to that old record.
When my time comes, I’m counting on doing the same thing. Remembering all the memories that I made and if I’m lucky, I’ll be sitting in my favorite chair, looking out a window, watching the rain and thinking of all my memories. Not just the big ones, but all the little ones that I have collected over the years, and maybe I’ll be able to muster up just enough strength to hum an old Tony Bennett song, too.