Have you ever noticed how hearing a certain song from the past can take you out of the present and transport you back to that time? For example, every time I hear “Ebb Tide,” I am 18 again, a college student at a Friday night mixer in the gym of the all-male college across town. My friends and I from my all-female college, would pool our meager resources and hire a taxi to take us to the mixer. It was pretty much just a waiting game at the dance, though, waiting to see if any of the male species would muster enough courage to ask one of us to dance. This was a time when it was unacceptable for women to be forward enough (Gasp!) to do the asking.
Some nights were better than others, and on those nights I didn’t spend the entire time holding up the wall. The evenings always ended the same with the playing of “Ebb Tide,” perfect music for a last slow dance. Some dance partners made me wish the dance would go on a lot longer, but occasionally there was a sweaty-palmed, nervous, difficult-to-follow partner who was probably as relieved as I was when the music ended. With a midnight curfew at our college, the nights weren’t likely to get too wild!
Hearing songs like “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Lemon Tree” or “Go tell it on the Mountain” takes me back again to my college days when I wanted to be a folk singer in my spare time. I let my hair grow long and straight, which was about as close as I got to resembling Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. I also loved the Kingston Trio and I sang along loud and proud, “Hang down your head Tom Dooley, poor boy you’re bound to die.” Other popular performers of the time were Donovan, Judy Collins, Burl Ives and Joan Baez. The Everly Brothers crooning “Wake Up, Little Susie” and “Kathy’s Clown,” were favorite sing-alongs. The Smothers Brothers could harmonize so well, and they also kept us laughing with their hilarious routines.
High school years were pretty much ruled by the Beatles from England with songs like “Yesterday,” “It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night,” and “All My Lovin’.” When they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, my family didn’t have a television set, so I went to my neighbor Sissy’s house to watch it and scream with all the rest of the frenzied audience. I remember one of my classmates saying that she wanted to do her research paper on the Beatles, but was told by the instructor that it wasn’t a suitable topic because the Beatles were just a passing fad and she’d never find enough material to write about them. Famous last words!
Also part of the British invasion was the group Herman’s Hermits, and I memorized every word of “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” and performed my version of it, British accent and all, every time the song came on the radio. The Dave Clark Five, Peter and Gordon, Dusty Springfield and The Rolling Stones were part of the invasion too, and I loved them all!
Whenever I hear someone playing a harmonica, I’m transported to an even younger age, maybe 5 or 6, leaning against Uncle Ben’s knee as he played a few tunes. Even though we knew he always carried his harmonica in one of his pockets, sometimes he’d pretend that he forgot to bring it; we would then climb up on him and search his pockets until we found it and begged him to play for us. I remember hearing him play “Little Brown Jug,” ”Goodnight Irene,” and “Down in the Valley,” and I can still see Uncle Ben’s feet, in his brown leather slip on shoes, tapping in time to the music he played. Love that harmonica music!
Not only songs, but also smells or sights can transport me to another time and place. Certain things remind me of home, like the cobalt blue Evening in Paris bottle of perfume that I saw recently in the Vermont Country Store catalog. One of those blue bottles always sat on my mom’s dresser, and I’m sure I probably had to take a sniff sample a time or two. The smell of Old Spice shaving lotion reminds me of my dad in his Sunday suit getting ready to go to church, taking his best hat out of the hat box on his dresser. I was so proud of how nice he looked! I guess dressing up for church isn’t so important any more, and you won’t find many men in the pews wearing suits these days.
The aroma of bread baking is just about as good as it gets, and our house often smelled like that as mom kept our family supplied with homemade bread, and occasionally cinnamon rolls for Sunday breakfast. The freshness of sheets dried on the clothesline made it a real treat to slide into bed on wash days, and the sweetness coming from our lilac bushes in the spring could not be matched. The smell of recently cut hay reminds me of jumping in the hay mow after the hay had been unloaded from the hay wagon and piled between the rafters in the barn. In the fall, the aroma of cinnamon and apples bubbling on the stove when we canned Northern Spy applesauce made my mouth water. We were really blessed to have grown up like we did.
Every once in a while, something like a song or a certain smell will encourage me to take a meandering walk down memory lane, and I’ve found that it’s a good place to be!