Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Recovered Memory

As most of you know, I am a devout "American Idol" fan. One might even call me an "American Idol" Geek, a title which I would gladly and proudly accept. I haven't missed a single episode in years, and this past Tuesday night was no exception. The guest artist was Neil Diamond, who has been one of my favorite artists for 30+ years. He's a tremendous songwriter with a huge body of work, so I knew I was in for some great songs.

The evening proved me right.

But there was one song I had forgotten about.

This happens to me periodically. My love of music is colossal, and I have pretty varied musical tastes. In my 38 years, I've fallen in love with literally thousands of songs, spanning multiple decades and crossing multiple genres. And there's almost nothing I love more than hearing a song that I had forgotten about, falling in love with it all over again, and jumping onto I-Tunes as soon as humanly possible to get that song downloaded.

This past Tuesday night, that song was "Hello Again". It came out in 1980 on Neil Diamond's "The Jazz Singer" soundtrack. I remember loving the song, and I remember my older sister Julie loving the song (and blaring it from her bedroom stereo!). But I especially remember my Mom loving the song. And indeed, when AI contestant Syesha came on-screen and the opening notes to "Hello Again" started, I was instantly transported.

Transported to 1980. Transported to 6th grade. Transported to a station wagon driven by the sweetest and most beautiful woman on earth - my mother. She had that "Jazz Singer" soundtrack (on cassette tape, of course!), and played it endlessly. We'd sing aloud to it at the top of our lungs as she shuttled me to and from school and various extracurricular activities. Honestly, hearing that song on AI Tuesday night literally put me right back in that time and place. Such is the power and magic of music.

There is a line from the movie "You've Got Mail" when Meg Ryan's character Kathleen Kelly says "I'm missing my mother so much, I can hardly breathe." That's how I felt Tuesday night when I heard "Hello Again" for the first time in a very, very long time. It made me miss my mother terribly, and I wept throughout Syesha's performance, especially when the song reached its crescendo:

Maybe it's been crazy
And maybe I'm to blame
But I put my heart above my head
We've been through it all
And you loved me just the same
And when you're not there
I just need to hear
Hello, my friend, hello

And yet, as is so often the case when these moments of grief strike me so suddenly, in the midst of it, I couldn't help but feel grateful. Grateful that music ties me emotionally to so many happy memories in my life, especially memories of my mother. Grateful for my mother's great passion for music, which no doubt influenced my own. I mean, there was never not music in her car. And there's never not music in my car either.

And finally, grateful that I know that I will someday see her again, that it will be a glorious reunion, and that the heavens will be filled with music when that day comes.

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