While lost in thought walking back to the office building after a hurried lunchtime full of errands, there was a sound that stopped me in my tracks. It brought me back to a place from a long time ago.
It’s very windy this afternoon. The type of wind that seems to clear out all the funky smells in the air to give it a crisp, fresh aroma. In front of the building, there is a very tall flagpole, and the flag fiercely snapped back and forth as if being caught in a tug of war. Between the snapping of the flag, there was also the rat-tat-tatting of the rope banging against the metal pole. It was this sound that stopped me. Rat-tat-tat-t-tat-tat-t-tat.
When I was a kid, I grew up in a town near the Jersey shore. There was a river that spilled into the Atlantic on one side of our boundaries. On this river, there was a marina with an adjacent park, where in the summer it would host fireworks on the fourth of July and in the winter host ice boaters if it was cold enough. I spent many hours at this park when I was a kid. A place to hang out for endless hours with friends, a place to sneak cigarettes, watch the boats go by, dream of owning one of the mansions across the river, and dangling over the edge of the pier counting all the white jellyfish in August. Being that the park is on the water, there is usually some wind blowing things around. And so usually I could always count on a familiar rat-tat-tat of the flag pole in the park to know where I was: Marine Park. I can’t help but think of boring days mulling around a park as a kid when I hear that sound. Ah, the be “bored” again.
Usually smells are what bring back the most memories for me. The smell of pencils makes me think of my dad’s basement office, the smell of coconut reminds me of being at the beach with mom in the summer (from the Coppertone), and fresh cut grass reminds me of times spent at my grandparents house in the country. But there are also sounds that seem to alter the mood for briefs periods:
• Any song by The Doors brings me right back to high school
• Ocean waves calm me
• The pop of a cork brings happiness
• Waterfalls make me think of my grandparents house
• The dribble of a basketball on a court in a gym brings me back to 8th grade in an instant
• The opera Turandot makes me cry
I was once asked if, given the horrible possibility of losing either your sight or your hearing, which would it be. When I really thought about it, the answer surprised me. As much of a visual person that I am, I don’t think I could live without sound around me. Of course, maybe I could get a hearing aid, which seems more plausible than new eyes to see. But what do I know. The debate is nonsensical. Thank God I have both. All I know, is that I could not live without these sounds, both grand and small, rhythmic and irregular.