Chick Corea. An off-handed song intro from the band’s drummer flipped a switch. Like a car that can do zero to sixty in remarkable time, a hollow memory became crowded with snapshots: an album cover, a turntable sitting on a makeshift entertainment center of milk cartons and shelving, and books, so many books.
I turned to my friend and said in disbelief “I’ve had a previous life!” We all have, she answered. She misread my meaning. We have all had different incarnations, styles, and even names such as daughter, student, performer, mom. But to be frank, my memory of times past is terrible. Joan Didion spoke of me when she said “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” This torrent bubbled up from somewhere hidden away. While I was warmed by the fact it was still somewhere within me, I wasn’t prepared for the quake of its arrival.
She went back to the jazz performance and I went back to the show in my head. The music was soundtrack to the flood of memories of my years away at college that I had shed like snakeskin. The thoughts, ideas, the sheer joy of college life came along on the backs of scenes I hadn’t thought of in a very long time. Mornings of black coffee without the luxury of milk, nights of pub pool, and how egg drop soup can make a meal – all returning to me. And books by the likes of Hermann Hesse and Aldous Huxley alongside James Herriot and Douglas Adams, making just enough of a mix to ward off youthful pretense. The more serious mile markers of my reading life remain with me today and sit on my shelves offering warmth and comfort. But the actual memories of what surrounded me when they were shiny and fresh were dormant, and apparently waiting to startle me with a singular keyword.
Afterward, my friend asked if I enjoyed the show. I felt that was an understatement. Something had shifted in me. I had retrieved a part of my being, one that wasn’t just forgotten but indefinitely buried.
I felt like kissing the drummer.
Am I living the literal definition of losing one’s mind? No, I think it’s less nefarious than that and, like many baby boomers, I am unsettled by the fact that I am getting old. Somewhere along the line, we thought we were promised eternal youth and felt, no, we feel that continued good health, long lifespan, and access to every last memory is our real entitlement, all those fundamental rights to be pried from our grasp. By you and what army.
If all of my experiences total up to one true being, maybe like simple math, I need to find X to solve the narrative of what, and why, I am now before it permanently fades away. I can’t think of a better way of completing my own circle than by mining my past.
Oh, but fellow boomers, it’s time to face the music.