While I was out, I turned off my Bluetooth and switched on the radio. Since getting my car in July, I had been so enthralled by the ability to play music directly from my phone that I had yet to explore my radio. As I drove down Grand avenue, flipping through stations, I was surprised to hear a familiar voice warble out of my speakers. The song, LSD’s “Thunderclouds” featuring Sia, was one I had first heard nearly two years ago while studying abroad in Wales. It played in my home, which I shared with 5 other foreign exchange students, on a constant loop for 4 months: at parties, when we made dinner, and while playing cards late into the night. My flatmate Masud, who showed it to us, could never have guessed how popular it would have become. Or how, two years later, the memories of those times would come rushing back at Sia’s familiar, wonderful first verse.
A lot has changed since those days–life got busy. One by one, my flatmates and I have graduated, started looking for jobs, and moved between states, countries, and across seas. The six of us, who’d spent four months in each other’s constant company, are living our lives, meaning our contact has become much sparser and less frequent. My contact with the “Usual Crowd”, the 30 or so other exchange students that comprised our larger friend group, has been even less so. Yet there are moments when I hear or see something and can’t help but think of them. As memories of our family dinners drift back to mind at our song, I see each of them. And I know that when and if they hear it, they also think of the times we spent together, of each other, and of me.
I think of Nadja, my German friend with great taste in music, whenever I hear Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” comes up in my playlist. It is her hands I imagine now, strumming the chords as the guitar plays cheerfully. Masud comes to mind whenever I hear anything by Sia, as she might never have come across my radar without him. The Dixie Chicks bring back Maroua, who told me about her life and experiences in Morocco and France as she sat in the kitchen with me while I made dinner. I hear Steffi’s voice singing “Pumped Up Kicks” from behind her bedroom door and smile at the memory of the freestyle verses that flowed from her lips like water. And I picture Isis, my beautiful Dutch lady, cheerfully singing along to every pop song she knows as they cycle through on Spotify music.
And I think that, at least every once in a while, they hear or see something that makes them think of me. Maybe it happens around Halloween, when the memories of putting up decorations and making jungle juice for our house party visit them. Or perhaps they see my face whenever they eat Oreo’s, the same cookie that once filled my cupboard to the brim as I consumed them, slathered in peanut butter, by the sleeve. Or when they see a pair of knitting needles, maybe the memories of spending hours in the kitchen together, slowly stitching up scarves, come rushing back. And when they hear “Thunderclouds”, I hope they think back to the countless times the six of us listened to that song together.
That’s the beauty of the relationships that we form in our lives– as time and space separate us, the memories of the times we shared continue to connect us. Something as simple as a song, which means nothing to some people, can unify others and bring back memories of simpler, more beautiful times. While our bodies are physically distant, separated by borders and oceans, our hearts and experiences continue to connect us even after we’ve said goodbye. Even after our bodies leave this Earth, there is nothing that can destroy the memories we preserve in our minds and hearts. It’s what connects us across time and space and reminds us of those times when we stood in the company of those we love. So don’t lose hope! Today, try to take a walk or listen to something familiar. Allow your mind to travel back to another time or place where you’re back in the company of someone you love. It doesn’t take much to do it. It’s as simple as remembering the words to a familiar song.
As always, stay safe and hopeful!