Music, Car Keys, and Slow Dancing
By Janey Womeldorf
It had never happened in 23 years of marriage.
My husband and I were at the afternoon matinee, (too tight and too old to stay awake for the evening movie) and at the end of the film during the credits, they played Herb Alpert singing his romantic classic, “This Guy’s in Love with You.”
I’m not sure if it was the dark cinema, the romance of the movie or simply the power of beautiful music, but his voice and those lyrics ignited such an overwhelming whoosh of love and affection in us that we stood up, and as everybody else streamed out of the cinema, we slow danced until the last audible note.
Herb Alpert recorded that song in 1968. I can’t remember what I had for dinner three days ago, but I remember the words to a song I’ve not heard in over two decades. How can that be?
Ironically, this miracle of memory occurred the same week I searched an hour and a half for my car keys. I got up in the morning, made my tea to go, opened the catch-all kitchen drawer where everything homeless, including the car keys, lives, and they were not there. Stumped, I searched the car, garage, everywhere in between and rechecked the ignition so many times, even I was embarrassed. I found shriveled souvenirs of our life under the driver’s side seat but alas no keys. At one point, I even mentally retraced the stops I had made out driving the day before in case I had left the car keys en route somewhere; thus sealing the word “Duh” forever into my aging vocabulary.
After 90 wasted minutes, I had no choice but to don the yellow gloves and go dumpster diving in my kitchen. Sure enough, there they were in the bottom of my trash can, wet and sticky from the previous night’s casserole scrapings. I could offer my husband no explanation just clueless guilt.
Admittedly, music cannot reverse the absent mindedness of aging, but its powerful magic is indisputable. Music is as therapeutic to me as the television is to some, and when I walk in the door at night, the tunes go on before even the bra comes off – and few things top that level of relief urgency. Forced to choose, I would still prioritize soothed ears over relieved appendages any day.
The reality is music burrows itself so deep into our psyche, we don’t even realize it’s there. If someone had asked me to sing “This Guys in Love with You,” I’d have been clueless. But play it, and the words flow out of me like I sang it yesterday. Not only can music inspire a how-come-I-know-all-the-words-to-this-song miracle, but it can zoom you back to a specific moment or person in a heartbeat.
At our parent’s 50th wedding-anniversary celebration, the evening ended with a photographic slideshow of their life; accompanied by Van Morrison singing his hit, “Someone Like You.” Watching the love, struggles and joys of a 50-year marriage unfold on a screen, sound-tracked to the line “Someone like you makes it all worthwhile,” and tears are guaranteed. I think we were all sniffling.
My first musical attachment was to Elvis’ hit “In the Ghetto.” When I hear it, I am seven years old again, eagerly lifting the wooden lid to our four-foot-long chest stereo. I would pull out the record, sit cross-legged on the floor, and play it over and over until I knew every word. Each time the track finished, I would delicately lift the needle replacing it back in the well-worn groove. Forty years later, not only does “In the Ghetto” remain my favorite Elvis track, but I can still recite every word.
When I first fell in love (which at thirteen you do without even dating), I ached along with Art Garfunkel. As he sang in his romantic classic, “I Only Have Eyes for You,” I also didn’t know if I was in a garden or on a crowded avenue, but I did know I was alone in my bedroom on a Saturday night, love struck, pining anonymously for my true love. When the relationship ended five days later, I grieved to the heady sounds of Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons in darkness.
At 16, I dated Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” At 21, Gloria Gaynor convinced me “I could survive.”
At 23, I fell in love with my future husband dancing to Glenn Miller. Neither of us could dance, but Glenn made us believe we could.
Two years later, we danced at our wedding to “The Time of My Life” (Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes) from the movie Dirty Dancing. I was tempted to dive off the stage into my husband’s arms at the end of the song, but unlike in the movie, my dad was not a doctor. He was, however, a printer which is great for free invitations but disastrous for the new bride who just crashed face first onto the floor.
Six years later and unemployed, we sold our house and, homeless and jobless, travelled the country for eight months in a motor home. We cut each other’s hair while singing “Even though we ain’t got money” (Kenny Loggins).
Thankfully, life blessed us over the decades that followed, and nowadays, our hair is sharper and we have a new song: Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” – it may be the most powerful of them all. Whenever we hear it, life stops.
There is one line in that song – “I’ll love you in a place where there’s no space and time” – that when my husband whispers it to me, 25 years of his devotion and love surge through me with such intensity, it makes me giddy. Even after all these years, he still rocks my world, and I am forever grateful he loves me the way he does.
I am even more grateful, however, that he never emptied the trash last Tuesday.
About this writer
- Janey Womeldorf is a freelance writer who thrives on writing about the humorous, the poignant, and the continually-surprising sides of everyday life. She drinks too much coffee and scribbles away in Memphis, Tennessee.