Recently, someone from my childhood neighborhood dropped into my gym to see me. Actually, a couple times, but I missed her both times. According to the note she left behind, her mother is in a nearby convalescent home.
This caused me to think back on how I knew her. Her name is Lori and we lived on a dead end street with ten half-acre lots on each side of the road. The neighborhood was constructed in the late 1950’s and most of the homes were filled with families with young children. To find someone to play with, you simply walked to the end of your driveway and looked up and down the neighborhood.
Lori lived four hours down the street with her two older sisters and a younger brother. Her mother organized doorstep-to-doorstep Christmas caroling with an after party of homemade cookies and hot chocolate. Her father helped run the neighborhood softball games that were played on the pavement in the dead end circle. Asphalt was the artificial turf of the 70's.
Sometime in the summer of 1973, when we were 14 years old, Lori and I became an item. At one point, she passed me a note that said, ‘I love you’ and we were neighborhood-official. Over the coming months, we’d find every opportunity to makeout. After the kids she was babysitting went to bed. When we went for a ‘run’ through the woods. During warm nights as we sat on the curb watching fireflies. In a shed nearby the ice skating pond.
When I started 9th grade, my Spanish teacher reported to my mother that I was falling asleep in class. Given my schedule, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I was tired.
Each day, I woke up around 5 AM to deliver the Hartford Courant in the surrounding neighborhoods. After pedaling my bike back home, I would wake my father and we’d drive to the town’s Army/Navy club to clean their hall. This involved clearing the tables of beer bottles, glasses and ash trays, wiping down the tables, placing the chairs atop the tables, sweeping and mopping the floors and, finally, taking the chairs back down. Once this was done, we’d head home and I’d quickly walk to the bus stop at the end of the street. When I arrived home from school, my afternoon was filled with collecting newspaper dues, doing chores in the yard, playing with friends, hanging out with Lori and, maybe, some homework.
Eventually, I began falling asleep right after school and my mother hauled me to the pediatrician. The doctor diagnosed me with mononucleosis. When he told me this, it meant nothing to me. It was just a long, scary word.
When we returned home from the doctor’s office, I looked mononucleosis up in our Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia and found that I’d survive. Mononucleosis is often referred to as ‘the kissing disease’ and my mother was quick to suggest that Lori was the culprit.
For the next month, I was sequestered at home to rest and recover. Since my parents both worked, this meant that I either sat on the couch, watched soap operas, played Nerf basketball or napped under an afghan that my mother had crocheted.
When I was eventually allowed to return to school, I quickly heard rumor that Lori had dumped me for another neighborhood boy. He had a backyard shed that was convenient for makeout sessions. When I ran into Lori, she confirmed the rumor, but said that I should be honored because, after all, she’d only told a handful of boys that she was in love with them.
Lori and I remained friends during our remaining years of high school. The next summer, she even fixed me up with her cousin who was visiting from Georgia. Her cousin who, fortunately, didn’t have mononucleosis to pass along.
Lori’s visit and the memories that it brought back caused me to search Spotify and pop on the Billboard Top 100 from 1973. As I hiked, I was taken aback by how the music made me feel.
Listening to the music of a certain year is far different than listening to a mixtape of an era. It’s a thinner slice of time and representative of what was playing on Top 40 radio stations at the time. Some songs pulled me back to how I felt during that time. I ended up singing out loud as I walked along the path and pulled my shirt off to let the sun bake into me.
This is the bottom-line recommendation: Listen to the music of a particular year of your youth, bask in the sun and let the memories of your youth wash over you. The memories won’t given you mononucleosis.