Have you ever wondered why your favorite music has such a powerful hold on you? I think it’s about freedom. Let me jump back in time and you’ll see what I mean. It was the summer of 1976. A scream from my mother woke me up at one in the morning. I dashed to her room and saw her crawling, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I need to go to the emergency room,” she said. I quickly called for an ambulance.
When she got back
Two weeks after my mother came back from the hospital, I was making her tea. From the kitchen I could see my mother struggling to get into a position that would relieve her pain. No matter what she did, the pain was relentless. Her face was etched with severe discomfort. I stayed in the kitchen a little longer than I should have, taking a few minutes to calm down, and realized the tea was cold. I boiled more water and made more tea. After I gave my mother her tea, she asked me to turn on the radio.
That’s when I discovered the power
I saw the effect of the music on my mother. Her facial expression had changed. Her face was no longer a mask of agony. Of course she was feeling pain in her present life, but it was as if in the music there was another life for her. She had found a life without pain, perhaps a life where she was a nurse again.
There’s power in music, I thought at that moment. Something I never appreciated. A song makes it possible for anyone to have a life other than the one they are living. A pauper can be a king. A “plain Jane” can be her husband’s greatest sensation.
A song takes me back home
Neil Diamond’s “Brooklyn Road” was playing on the radio as I read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales on the living room couch. I stopped reading and listened to the song. Soon I was back home. The image of that Brooklyn road brought to my mind the image of a tree that was in the front yard of my house back in South Africa. The tree was gigantic. No matter where I was, I could always find my way back home just by looking for the tree. The tree not only served the purpose of a landmark, it was also a communal spot for the family.
The song was fading out, almost gone. I wasn’t home anymore. It didn’t matter. I had discovered that through music I could always go back home. My mother had shown me that.
What I have learned
I know that music frees your imagination. I can visit “Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles or check out “Galveston” by Glen Campbell. I can go wherever I want; all I have to do is listen to the radio.