Sometimes, when the boys play a silly on-line game they like called Pirate 101 (you do understand that I put these specific references in for the boys, sometime in the future, so they'll smile and remember for a moment, right?), I'll pick up my guitar and play a couple tunes and watch them play for a while. It happened just last night.
I pick up my tired, beloved vintage Alverez and give it a quick strum, a pretty G-chord sings up, hitting the floor joists just above me, echoing sweetly back. I run the G up to a C and, for reasons I could never begin to explain, I suddenly remember a dozen or so young couples with silver bracelets on their wrists and flowers in their hair (a Bob Dylan reference) dancing in a field, all waltzing, happily singing the chorus to Mr. Bojangles as I play guitar with a couple of new dear friends, all of us dancing barefoot, singing our hearts out. I can't remember the details, I think it was somewhere on the rolling hills of The Ohio University , circa nineteen-hundred-and-seventy-nine.
So, as the boys carry on in their made up pirate world, I am carried back on a wave of sacred nostalgia. Instantly, I remember all the words, all the tricky parts, all the chords and, I begin the song anew with a long instrumental intro, watching, once again, a crazy, spontaneous, colorful, exuberant, waltz etched forever in my memory.
I forget them, the boys, briefly and, out of the blue, out of the future, out of the now - I'm not sure which - a voice says:
"That's pretty, Daddy."
"Yeah, it's all dancey and stuff..." another distantly familiar voice says just after.
I proceed to sing the song through, to my audience of two and those in the audience of my memory. It is a great song, sad yet hopeful, happy, bordering on regretful, but never reaching that conclusion. I tear up when someone asks him "please... please... dance" just as I have for the nearly forty years I've been singing that song.
"Play it again, Dad."
"Will you sing it with me, you know, the chorus?"
"Yeah," they chorus answers back.
So, I sing it again.
Memories careen for me, around ridiculous corners, cartoon-like, bumping others going the opposite way, riding, barely holding on to each other, trying, beyond hope to reach an ultimate destination. They simply are unbridled in my mind, wonderful, important, essential, but wild and unfettered.
In just the few minutes it took for me to play that song, twice, I remembered so many who had heard me play it, with whom I had played it, whom I've heard play it while I sat back to listen, too drunk or in love to play along. Some of the names allude me, but, the faces and the eyes and the voices and the smiles and the timbres and the tones all shake me still.
I seemed to remember an entire era, hundreds of souls, dozens of places, a thousand laughs and as many tears in just a few minutes, and, all as I did something else. How is that possible? I remember thinking to myself, what makes that possible?
Time, an answer floated back.
Not time, I think, no, time is my enemy, lurking and stealing from me, beating down on me, winning...
Right, I knew that. Sorry...
So, I am, I guess, experimenting here. I hope that perhaps, reading this post, or hearing Mr. Bojangles again, most likely for the first time in years, will perhaps jolt one of these boys into a memory, or two, or, with luck, a whole childhood.
And, a few hours after I wrote these words, I remembered this image:
Yeah that's me on the left, makin' memories...