It’s funny the things you associate with your childhood. Some are obvious, like a teddy bear or an old blanket, and some are not quite so obvious, like a piece of Tupperware or a meal. Some you share with a good chunk of your generation, and some you share with just your friends. And of course there are a great many things that you only share with your family.
I was on my way to work today when a song came onto my iPod and instantly I was thrown back into my childhood. In the case of this song, the association is purely one that I share with my family. My friends and the majority of my generation in all honesty wouldn’t point out this tune as particularly reminiscent of a child from the 90s. But all the same, it holds a special place in my heart.
I should note, I owe a great deal of thanks to my parents for exposing me to such a large variety of music while I was growing up. Everything from good ol’ country, to classic rock, to classical, to film soundtracks. By the time my older brother was forming his own preferences for music genres, I was just old enough to remember it, and so his penchant for stereotypical 90s dance music (and in his defense, not that he needs it, the rest of his generation was also into it…), followed later by harder rock, also made their way into my musical sphere. Yes, I was a child of many musical tastes.
I suppose that’s how such a song became associated with my childhood, despite that most of the people my age that I know have never heard it, and probably wouldn’t peg me as a fan of it. Disney soundtracks, 90s pop music, and the seemingly endless list of one-hit wonders from the 90s, yes. But a song from a pop rock/worldbeat record by an artist largely catering to older generations? Definitely not.
And yet from the opening drums, this song always grabs my attention and transports me back to my childhood. And so when that opening drumming sounds, I always crack a smile and remember my younger days fondly. Today’s occurrence during my commute was no exception. I smiled widely and remembered dancing to the song while it played loudly, the drum beats bouncing off the walls. It’s one of those songs that I just feel like I’ve always known the words to. And so just as I can sing along with the best (worst) the 90s had to offer, so too can I recite the lyrics to this one.
But what struck me as I listened to it and thought about what sorts of things people associate with their childhood, is that it’s those private associations that are interesting. It’s nice to connect with others through these shared associations, but it’s learning about those seemingly strange associations that really speaks to a deeper relationship. Sure, your colleagues, friends and acquaintances know that hearing “smelly cat, smelly cat” will prompt a “what are they feeding you?” to follow in your mind. But they don’t know that a particular song, or a smell, or a painting, or a food will send you back to those moments spent as a child.
I think that some of the most interesting and fun parts of a growing friendship (or relationship, take your pick) is that length of time where you’re learning the little things about the other person. What they like, what drives them bonkers, their mannerisms, their quirks. Everything is new and intriguing, and you’re constantly drawing comparisons to your own dislikes, likes, etc.. And it’s one thing to learn about the person as they are now, but I think it’s quite another to see the snapshots of them as they became the person you’re learning about.
We all are where and what we’ve been. There’s no escaping that. Does that mean we’re doomed and damned to our previous mistakes? Definitely not. We can learn, we can adapt – it’s what our species does. But we can’t run from it, it’s a part of us, whether we like deny it or embrace it.
I like being with people who have those secret little smiles when they hear a particular song, or read a particular phrase, or taste a familiar flavour. And even more, I like having them explain why those things bring out that secret little smile. I think it speaks to a deeper relationship/friendship when you delve into those things. Yes, the deep and heavy discussions and offerings of long held secrets can speak to intimacy, platonic or otherwise, but it’s the smaller things that are big in my book.
I want my friends to know that this song makes me ridiculously happy when I hear it. I want them to know that when I hear “Why deny the obvious, child?” I can’t help but smile. I want them to understand when I feel the need to close my eyes and sail back through the years upon hearing this song. I want them to appreciate the joy it brings me. I want them to be able to grin and laugh along with me when it comes on – not because they necessarily enjoy it themselves, but because they know what it does to and for me. I want them to care enough to delve into my secret smile. And likewise, I want to be able to do all of that with their associations.
So friends and strangers alike, I invite you to embrace a warm and happy memory brought on by a trigger of sorts. Let that association be a point of growth for your friendships, because really, joy and laughter are things to be shared.