Saturday, November 21, 2009

memory

I grew up in a house full of music. Both my parents were such lovers of music, it was impossible to live a day without it. My mom loves Nat King Cole, The Platters and Matt Monroe. My dad loves ABBA, Simon & Garfunkel and of course, The Beatles. Growing up, there was no such thing as ‘good music’ or ‘bad music.’ Everything was just ‘music’ and it was so effing fantastic, I couldn’t get enough.

I remember this one time, I was about 5 or 6 years old and I had recently discovered my dad’s Peter, Paul & Mary tapes. I was listening to Reunion and there was a track there called The Unicorn Song. At that age, I spent most of my time alone with my imaginary friends so I could really relate. The man was singing about a unicorn who was his imaginary friend. Together, they would sing, dance and gallop or whatever it is children do with unicorns. I could totally relate to the song. I mastered the lyrics and the melody by listening to it again and again and again. I would play it and when the song was done, I would press rewind and play it again. I must’ve been listening to it for a good two hours when my sister (who was studying in the next room) decided to intervene.

She was very cross. Apparently, greatness is relative. She did not share the same view on the song. She took the tape out of the multiplex and stepped on it with her large Keroppi slipper. It took several stomps from her big, stubby foot before she was able to smash the cassette into pieces. By then I was wailing and screaming and begging her to stop but she continued anyway. After a few more seconds, she declared the intervention a success and went back to her algebra book.

I was as shattered as the cassette. If I were to send a letter to Maalaala Mo Kaya, that moment would probably be in the first 15 minutes. I felt like together with the record, my sister had ruined my dreams of finding my unicorn and in turn, my happiness.

I sort of got over it. I moved on as children often do but for the rest of my waking life, I had a yearning to hear that song one more time. During the hey day of Napster, it was one of my first searches. Alas! I couldn’t find a copy. I tried to find it in YouTube but all I could find were covers. I didn’t want to settle for a remake. I needed the same version I fell in love with. I tried searching for it in torrents but it seems my dear unicorn was not popular enough to be immortalized in seeds.

Years later (or a few weeks ago), I came across a forum about the Reunion album. There, someone posted a link to The Unicorn Song. I felt like a huge cloud had been lifted. It seems my unicorn and I were to be reunited after all! I clicked the link post-haste but to my dismay, it was no longer available.

After tracking, borderline stalking the poster, I finally found her email address. I politely told her my story and asked for the link again. She replied in a nice email with the song attached. I felt like I had just won the lottery.

So a few days ago, I finally got to listen to The Unicorn Song again. I uploaded it to my iPod and after updating the album art and lyrics, I prepared myself for the journey of rediscovery. I locked the door, put on my earphones and pressed play.

As the opening chords played, I felt I was six again. I smiled and let the music fill the room.

♫ When I was growing up my best friend was a unicorn. The others smiled at me and called me “crazy.” ♫

“Hmmm… this song is… different.”

♫ But I was not upset by knowing I did not conform. I always thought their seeing must be hazy. ♫

“It’s very… err… strange.”

♫ The unicorn and I would while away the hours. Playing, dancing and romancing in the wild flowers… ♫

“It’s not how I remember it.”

♫ …and we'd sing ‘Seeing is believing in the things you see. Loving is believing in the ones you love.’” ♫

“Fuck. These people were totally high when they wrote this song.”

I stopped the song and tried to process the situation. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I felt like all those years of searching and waiting were in vain. Why wasn’t it as good as the song I had in my memory?

Memories are funny things. With them, every strength is magnified and every flaw is forgotten. The song was not as good because I was young when I first heard it. It was before I had any grasp of good and bad. The song was indeed terrible and my sister had good reason to smash the cassette tape but back then, I didn’t really know what ‘terrible’ was. All those years of searching led up to that moment when I would be reunited with my precious song. It was the build-up of the decade. If you think about it, it almost seems like I was setting the song up for failure. It was then that I learned this simple truth: things are almost always perfect in our memory.

Memory is like the lover who leaves too soon- the one who got away. We always remember the good times. We always blame ourselves for not being able to hold on to them. But given a chance to reconnect with them, the situation is often lackluster and embarrassing. You start to remember more bad times than good. You remember more pain than pleasure. The things you argued about suddenly come to mind. You recall the strange memories that managed to keep itself hidden.

Memory is a traitor. To paraphrase (500) Days of Summer, next time you look back, you should look again. Time keeps moving, with or without you and there’s a special place in hell for people who look behind them as they speed through life.

Or maybe I’m just drunk. Haha

Photo Credit: Diana Peterfreund


Peter, Paul & Mary
The Unicorn Song
Reunion




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