WASHINGTON, February 17, 2014 – Every time I hear Van Morrison sing “Brown Eyed Girl,” I am taken back to a resort in Forrest Lake, California where my father would take me and my siblings and my grandmother for a vacation during the summer.
I think we started going there when I was about 9 years old. My siblings and I would swim all day and goof off at night. Sometimes we acted in a talent show. I played my recital piece, Musetta’s Waltz, on the piano one year. I remember losing to a girl who sang Moon River.
Those were the good old days, before I hit puberty. Everything was just fun. For two weeks in the summer we would just play and not worry about a thing.
I think it was the last year we went to the resort that I heard Van Morrison’s song. I was already listening to rock n’ roll by then, and I am pretty sure I started thinking about boys too. However, it wasn’t until I heard the tune and the words to Brown Eyed Girl that I started to think of myself as a woman, maybe a woman in training because I was probably only about 11 or 12 years old at the time. Even so, I felt something new.
When I heard that song, I felt as if there were now new possibilities available to me. It seemed like doors were opening and I could do anything as a young woman. I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do, but I had this feeling that I could do things I could not before, and hearing the song made me believe in myself and my future. I wondered: “What now?”
Now every time I hear that song, more than a generation later, I still feel the same sensation. I feel new, open, ready for the next thing, fresh, a little scared and a little hungry all rolled into one. It is like the music taps into something really special inside me in a way that no memory can on its own. For the length of the song I hold on to that feeling and cherish that goodness.
Maybe it’s the purity of the moment that I like. Maybe it’s just something that the song says about me and that time in my life. I haven’t really analyzed this, but I do know I will always have a connection to that song and to Van Morrison for as long as I live because every time I hear it, I always feel the same.
Growing up, I went to a few Van Morrison concerts. I bought all his records and I even had a poster of him on a wall in my bedroom. Maybe I really wanted to capture more than that moment from Forrest Lake. Maybe I just wanted to hold onto something I found special and continue to relive it.
In my training to become a therapist, I read how humans connect with music at certain ages and how the experience of our lives and the songs are fused together, becoming one. When we hear tunes from our past, we are instantly transported back to the moment when the imprint occurred. We remember the experience fully again as if it’s never aged. We all have a soundtrack of our lives that transports us back to a version of ourselves from another time.
I thought about this the other day when a patient came into the office for an appointment. He was loudly singing a doo-wop song. I asked him what he was singing and he said he was listening to a fifties station on the radio. I could tell that he sung that song as if it was one of his moments in his life… part of his soundtrack. He looked so happy. He also looked young, like this song was one of his special moments. For this patient, this song was his Van.
Look into your past and think about the songs that are precious to you. They are your history and they are important. They keep us connected to our memories and to how we were formed. Play on!