I woke up this morning actually feeling pretty good. My fever from yesterday was gone, I wasn’t covered in sweat and the aches and pains that filled all my joints were mostly gone. When I got out of bed, my body protested in the form of snaps and pops from the normal, middle aged places and the familiarity of them was a welcome distraction from what I had been experiencing not twenty-four hours earlier.
By the time I got dressed and made my way downstairs I realized that today was going to be a warm autumn day. My priorities were simple, clean Bernadette, head up to the HD dealership, pick up the second part of a Christmas gift and then head over to the Verizon store to have my phone checked out. Simple errands really, but the unexpected tepid weather was a nice surprise.
As I quickly shifted Bernadette through her gears with a total disregard for posted speed limits, my mind focused on the joy of riding but in the back of my mind Christmas music started playing. The song was an old one by Dean Martin, you know the one where instead of saying Rudolph he says Rudy… that song stirred in me a memory that had been buried for over ten years… and this is that memory.
It was Christmas time; my daughter had just turned four and was strapped in the back of our mini-van. My wife was driving as usual and I was in the passenger seat. On the radio, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” had just finished playing and we had just finished singing along while our offspring in the back shouted “I don’t want a Hippopotamus for Christmas!” in her youthful voice and then laughing hysterically. Then Dean Martin’s voice comes on the radio singing “Rudy the Red Nosed Reindeer”. When Dino started changing the lyrics, calling Rudolph, Rudy, and when he spoke German, my daughter started to protest at the top of her lungs…”That’s not how the song goes! He’s messing it up. I don’t like it!”
My wife and I laughed. We both tried to explain to her who Dean Martin was and what the Rat Pack was but she was having none of it. She wanted the classic Rudolph song. We then had to explain to her we were not in charge of the radio station but we would see what we could do. When she calmed down Chuck Berry’s “Run, Run, Rudolph came on the radio and she began to bop and sway with the heavy rhythms. She liked it and quickly forgot about Dino’s ad lib during the previous song.
When the song was over she wanted to hear it again, so I dug through the CD pile we had in the van and found a Christmas CD with “Run, Run Rudolph” on it and we played it non-stop for the rest of the ride. By the end of the ride, my child was singing right along with Chuck Berry. It was the first time I heard her southern twang in all its cuteness. Every time she sang “town” it came out “toooowwwwwooowwwwn” Her voice was so adorable that I couldn’t help but laugh and smile. When I looked back at her she clearly was having the time of her life, smiling, singing and laughing at the lyrics that were blasting out of our stereo.
Her joy was infectious and I was filled with warm fuzzy feelings for the rest of the day. It’s odd though, to me at least.
I haven’t thought of that moment for years and all of a sudden, while my speedometer needle closed in on the 80 mph mark, my brain was suddenly flashing visions of my young child having such a grand old time while listening to some 4/4 rockin’ Christmas carol. One that is over fifty years old but one that still makes one want to get up and dance or at least sit in your chair and see if you can dance the legs of the blasted thing. I felt a smile creep across my face as I throttled on.
As I came upon my exit, I wondered what other memories were buried in the deep recesses of my brain. I didn’t try to extract them, I knew that if I did I would fail. Memories are like that. The more you try to force them to the surface the deeper they sink into your id. They seem to be gifts that our unconscious gives to us when we need them and they don’t just come out during the holidays. They can arrive at anytime and anywhere. They can be brought forth by a song, a smell or even a scrap of paper.
I don’t know how the brain works with memory but I’m sure there are books about the topic available to anyone who wants to read about the subject. But for right now, my curiosity is not peaked enough to go and uncover the secret machinations of the human mind. I’d rather just enjoy the small gifts it gives to me when I need them. Besides, if I knew then it wouldn’t be a surprise. It would be more like peaking at your Christmas and Birthday gifts a day before you unwrapped them, while at the time of the peaking, you’re filled with excitement and fear, but when it comes time to open them in front of the gift givers, you have to put on an act of surprise and gratefulness. Afterwards, you feel a bit hollow inside, as if your knowledge was more of a burden than it should be. Sure, your happy about your gifts and the people who gave you them are happy you like them but deep down, you know you’re just a fool who has to act like you are surprised.
This is why I will most likely never delve into the secrets of my mind with a rusty scalpel. I’ll just let my brain unfold its mysteries to me as my life progresses down its path towards its inevitable conclusion. Makes life more interesting.
For now though, I’m going to enjoy the brief memory I’ve been gifted with of my young daughter laughing, singing and dancing to some rocking Christmas tunes.
Have a great week.