Emily Sue Harvey: Sounds

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Memories bless us with replays of life’s soundtrack. Sounds resurrect those memories, which, in turn, do touch-tag with other recalls. Right?

What do we do when depression strikes? Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m a music lover. If there were such a thing as a degree presented for music passion, I would be a PhD.

When I bottom out, I seek out an upbeat song to usher in countless tag-recalls of happier times. To me, music is magical, something I discovered so early in my years that the first memory is of sitting in front of Mama’s big old floor-model radio with a fabric covered speaker system. There, for hours at a time, I would press my ear to the speaker and marinate in the melodies and instrumental blends that carried me off into euphoria. Still, decades later, when I hear Guy Lombardo’s “Auld Lang Syne,” I am right back there sprawled before the cabinet radio, enthralled.

I rhapsodized over one symphony masterpiece from toddlerhood to adulthood before discovering the name of the composition was Debussy’s “Claire de Lune.” I still listen to it when I need to go someplace peaceful and secure.

In those very early years, I didn’t understand what a gift this love of sound was and how it would open doors to other echoes from the past. For instance, Gene Autry’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” now, over a half-century later, carries with it both my late parents’ calming voices teasing me about being “good,” and that being “naughty or nice” was a critical decision for me at that particular time of year, which in turn laid ground for the development of my behavioral ethics.

Sometimes, too, a tune catches me unaware, and if it’s Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are” or “It’s Not for Me to Say,” I am thrust back to teen days, awash in romantic rapture. Of course, that pushes other buttons of family fun times, of splashing water during a swim outing or mm mmming over food while picnicking. The sound of laughter and kidding around, something uniquely family, lingers alongside countless revisits.

The song, “You’ll Never Know Just How Much I Love You” from any musical rendition brings to mind my two young parents singing those words to one other, accompanied by my mother’s strumming guitar, who, by the way, could have accompanied the Mills Brothers with little effort. Mama and Daddy’s love—illustrated through their music—laid my own basis for what romantic love is.

Music isn’t the only way I re-live time through sounds. Another way I hear the past is through a baby’s coos or hungry cries, which plops me back to young motherhood, back there with new love and the sweet powdery smells and velvety soft skin. And to hear a frantic child’s “Mama!” in a public place still pivots me to it, gripped by yesteryears’ protective reaction.

Sometimes the reconnections summon a nostalgic onslaught, anything from a trickle to an avalanche. As time passes, yesterday’s sounds distance themselves, afloat on the mind’s perimeter, and I find that I miss them. Among those I miss the most are my parents’ and grandparents’ voices and the snuggly comfort they gave: water bubbling over a creek bed at my grandparents’ farm, which I dug into a small pool that disappeared overnight; the sizzling of my mother’s frying steak and onions and their mind-blowing aroma; the drone of low-flying aircraft overhead on lazy summer days; the giggles of my late daughter Angie and her daily afterschool snack of a fat devilled-egg sandwich and iced tea, ingested while listening to King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”; cheers during high school football and basketball games and the youthful high spirits they created; playing “Summertime” on the French horn during Byrnes High band’s Porgy and Bess concert; then later in my senior year, the band’s drum cadence while majorette high-stepping in Christmas parades; the quiet hushed sounds while reading in study hall and later, the whimpers and gurgles of my four babies and their first attempt at words. And yes, I even miss the night cries which sprang me from slumber.

These are but a few of the sounds I miss.

Someone once asked me which I felt I could do best without, sight or sound? Hmm. That’s impossible to answer. I pray I would never be forced to choose, because the beauty of God’s creation is a magnificent thing to behold, both through sight and sound. I’ve heard that the last thing to go as we’re leaving this earth is sound. That suits me fine, as a softly uttered “I love you” is the most beautiful send-off I can think of.

Happy Reading!



Emily Sue Harvey is the national bestselling author of six novels. Visit her website.

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On March 26, 2015
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One Response to Emily Sue Harvey: Sounds

  1. Good article, sounds right, and hits all the notes. In my upcoming book, a woman who is not used to romantic attention, feels like a teenager again after having had a spa treatment and hearing the song “Natural Woman” The theme returns at a moment when she is wrapped in delicious anticipation. I like having all the senses of my characters in play. As you point out, even if you are not a musician, music is always in your life. Whether in the foreground or background it sets up touch points to memories,

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