The impact music has on memory is huge. It’s something I’ve experienced for myself while at the same time witnessing from my parents–my father often drove my sisters and me to school, and he alternatively lectured us on some subject or “cultured” us by playing music from earlier decades. Sometimes the songs led into a history lecture as many lyrics refer to a concept of the period, like 99 Luftballoons or Spirit in the Sky, or we were treated to biographies of Elvis, the Beatles and Johnny Cash. When my father played a song, he told us its date and what was going on in his life at the moment, and how he first heard the song or what he did to buy a record. Life is wrapped up in the music, as if it has its own playlist.
I love being a kid of the 90s. The pop culture I grew up in remains vivid, looming inseparably over the scene of my childhood and simultaneously valuable for its own sake and valuable for how it appears in hindsight. I heard my father when he mocked *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, and I’m aware that not everyone will genuinely appreciate those musicians (“Call that music?” my father would complain) as well as other aspects of the decade’s culture, but I loved it then and I still love it now.
Like my father, I have my own memories that play to a record–or, to be accurate, they play to a cassette disk and then a few years later to CDs and finally an iPod. *NSYNC’s hit “Bye Bye Bye” was released when I was ten and enjoyed playing Four Square at recess. Unfortunately, the older girls dominated the scene, playing rough and keeping the rules flexible to suit themselves. For a few weeks when someone got out, the older girls jeered “bye bye bye,” complete with hand motions. One memorable day, however, my friends and I succeeded in beating out the older girls, and we did not neglect to crow “bye bye bye.”
That year, a bad snow storm kept schools closed for a week. During this time, my younger sister Delaney and I spent our time exclusively in the basement putting puzzles together (including a 200 piece Little Mermaid pizza party puzzle and a 1000 piece Beauty & the Beast puzzle) while listening to our *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys CDs. It sounds simple, maybe even dull to some people, but to me it has the strongest sense of nostalgia, sweet and insistent. I could live an eternity in moments like those that reign larger than life.
Adria English is a professional writer and a casual artist with a penchant for doodling. She currently resides in Mountain Home, Arkansas with her husband, Garrett, their daughter, Nenive, and two black cats. Adria blogs about young family life, culture and home projects at www.whitewallsblackcats.com.