Neil Young sat beside me last Saturday during choir practice. Metaphorically, of course. But it felt real. We were learning his song, ‘After the Gold Rush.’ The harmony was lovely and haunting, bringing me close to tears.
The music feels like a dirge with its plaintive talk of drugs and mother nature. And yet. As we moved through the piece I began to feel like my eighteen year old self en route to the best party ever. As if on cue, this memory came flashing back.
My friend Jude and I were driving around in her boyfriend’s car. A 1958 Pontiac, or something like it. Turquoise and cream, large and comfortable and, in 1971, already vintage. Jude slapped in an eight track tape and the song soared through the late summer air. Joy wrapped itself around us in the easy way it does when you’re young and living in the moment. The music sealed the memory so it could be unwrapped all those years later during choir.
More than any other sensory experience, music brings us back to ourselves. “There you are,” some part of our brain joyfully acknowledges. “Where’ve you been?”
We can go missing from our own lives and not even notice. We grow up, we learn, and we move forward, determined to be the best version of ourselves. To show the child within us that we did good. That we’re so much better than we were.
But by trying to forget the parts we find wanting, we miss the opportunity to heal some old hurts.
The music of our youth strips away the inconsequential, leaving us feeling vulnerable and genuine. A door opens to the past, allowing us to address it in a positive way.
There’s pain in the mix of those childhood and teenage years. All the unkind things we thought about ourselves. We didn’t like our noses. Our big feet. We were too short. Too tall. It was the gap in our teeth. Hair that never looked right. Klutzy, uncool, shy, geeky. There are a thousand things we found wrong with ourselves, thoughts sometimes unintentionally confirmed by the people who loved us.
The small potatoes of the past loom large. But that doesn’t mean they deserve the reserved seating you’ve given them in your memory bank. Transform those moments with great songs from your past and everything is put into perspective.
I sing the words, “All in a dream, all in a dream, the loading had begun. Flying Mother Nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun,” and I’m not with my choir anymore. I’m in the car with my friend, Jude, cruising down the highway, singing at the top of my lungs. And Neil Young is right beside me. The artist and his audience, binding each other’s wounds. “We’re mourning,” he says. “And we’re celebrating. Let’s sing.” And we do.