When Modern English’s “I Melt With You” pops up on my Pandora station, I really should thumbs down it. But once, didn’t I like it enough to sing along?
In a recent moment of nostalgia, I typed R.E.M. into Pandora’s search box. For a little bit of Life’s Rich Pageant, now that I better understand what that means. So I relaxed again into Michael Stipe’s introspections, Dolores O’Riordan’s “Dreams,” and Edder Vedder’s “I Wish”es.
But what to do when “I Melt With You” plays? I should thumbs down this odd interruption to my alt rock playlist. Thumbs down because I no longer care for the new wave anthem.
But how could the adult me thumbs down something that once mattered, even if for only one night of driving around town listening to music? Because music mattered at that age – you know, that age when songs really speak to you and your seemingly very individual moment and emotion – I almost feel like I should spare the old song a spot on a playlist.
Maybe I’m treating myself here like I do my daughters. When three-year-old Eve asks me to stop on a radio station because she likes that one less “Problem” song, who am I to roll my eyes? Let her like it. Her aesthetic doesn’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, mimic mine. And anyway, not all pleasures must, or should, last.
Music still speaks to me. Sometimes, the same music that spoke to me when I was younger. But nothing speaks to me like it did at that age. So I try to respect that my daughter’s choices aren’t mine to critique. I’m practicing for when they’re that age, when their preferences and my responses might matter. Maybe that’s why I’m hesitant to roll my eyes at Modern English now.
I’m also hesitant to thumbs down the track because it reminds me of who I once was. I’m beginning to understand why people, as they age, sometimes live as much in memory as in the present. Already, memories thread their way through the details of my days. Even the modest details: because Shelley and I discovered how good too much garlic makes a pizza taste, I add a little too much to each pie I make. And with every pizza, I smile at Shelley. And at myself. And at my girls, who I’m making pizzas with.
Memory presents itself in my immediacies. And so past becomes present. I suspect that as I continue to age, memories will layer themselves over everything I do and feel. Eventually, as I do less, memories will be what’s left.
A few days ago, I cried over my now almost six-year-old daughter Maia because as I held her, I also saw myself holding her when she was a baby. I get why everyone thinks their mother is a little bit crazy. It’s because we are. Adults are always living our nows and also reliving our thens, smiling at ourselves and our pasts. Your mothers are doing all of this and smiling at you, too, because our greatest immediacies and memories both are our children. It’s as if the world stopped with your arrival, and we became more than ourselves. We became you, too.
And we became and continue to become even more of ourselves as we relive and continue to live. An amalgam of memories, melted into me and you.
Maybe I still like that song after all. Or, at least, its refrain.