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Week 46: The Memory-Making Magic of Music | Everyday Nostalgia


I’m stage right, peeking out from behind a heavy curtain, waiting patiently for the audience members to take their seats. I do a little twirl and watch my glittery, sequined gown glisten, and when I’m finished, I reach up and smooth down my hair, preparing it for the crown that will surely be placed upon it within a matter of minutes.

Suddenly, I hear the first few notes of my entrance music: The pageant is about to begin.

* * *

Well, at least in my imagination, it is.

In reality, I’m 5 years old, it’s the mid-1980s, and I’m standing in the doorway of my wood-paneled living room, wearing OshKosh B’Gosh overalls and purple Velcro tennis shoes. My audience members are my mom and my 9-year-old brother, Kurt. While my father is there to enjoy the show as well, he’s also in charge of the audio/visual components. In front of me is my plastic orange and yellow Fisher Price shopping cart, and inside it, a wide variety of my toys.

As Billy Joel’s Leave a Tender Moment Alone plays in the background, I parade around the room, handing out my toys to my admirers as I pass them by. And then, when I’ve completed my laps, I reach down and take out the final item. It’s a shiny, gold trophy, and it glistens in the florescent light that streams down from the popcorn ceiling above.

I’ve been declared the winner of the 1986 Living Room Pageant, and I couldn’t be any more excited. I raise the trophy proudly above my head, and then, just like any good pageant winner knows to do, I make my victory lap around the room.

Afterwards, as Billy’s crooning voice slowly fades out, the next song—Keeping the Faith—starts, and I invite my brother to join me on “stage.” We toss off our shoes, and the two of us start dancing the silliest dance we can come up with.

As I giggle and dance and somersault and twist and turn, I think about how it’s a good thing I didn’t get a crown.

Because if I had, it surely would have fallen off by now.

* * *

This childhood memory recently came to mind not once, but twice, in the past few weeks.

The first time found me in dusty, old record store tucked inside a strip mall—most likely built around the same year I rocked those OshKosh overalls—flipping through a crate of vinyl. Billy Joel’s eyes look up at mine, looking every bit the innocent man his 1983 record claims him to be. But alas, in my mind, he’s 100% guilty for the memory trip seeing this album takes me on. When I turn the album over, I see those two songs sandwiched next to one another, a pageant girl patiently waiting for the after party.

I know I have to have the album. Excited, I quickly slide it from the bin and tightly wrap my hands around it, just like I’d once done with that plastic, gold trophy. When I get home later, I remove it from its sleeve, set it on my record player, and gently place the needle down. After few pops and scratches, Leave a Tender Moment Alone fills my 2017 living room, and just like that, it’s 1986 again. The memories come rushing back, and I’m flooded by a sea of nostalgia.

The second time happens as I’m standing in the home decor section of Target, behind one of their iconic red shopping carts. The contents of my cart are as random as the assortment my childhood one once held. But instead of toys that I can hand out, these are boring things I have to pay for, and after I do, I certainly won’t be getting a trophy.

Adulthood at its finest, right?

But I’m standing there behind that cart, looking at my daughter, Zoey. She has found the mirrors and is happily dancing in front of them. Her little pink Velcro shoes squeak every time she twirls. Suddenly, her movement stops. Zoey strikes a pose and then waves at her reflection, just the way a pageant winner would. She looks every bit like the girl I once was 30-some-years ago.

And again, just like that, Billy Joel starts singing in my head.

But if that’s how I feel
Then it’s the best feeling I’ve even known
It’s undeniably real
Leave a tender moment alone…

“I think you need some music,” I tell Zoey. “Every pageant girl needs some music.”

As I say this, I hear something floating down the aisle. It is a man’s voice, and he is singing.

Although the tune is familiar, since he’s singing pretty quietly, I don’t recognize the song at first. But when he gets to the chorus, I suddenly know what it is—a popular song currently playing on the radio called Feel it Still by the group Portugal.

Ooh woo, he sings.
I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
I been feeling it since 1966, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it’s 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still…

It’s one of those songs that, even if you wanted to hate it, you couldn’t, because it’s that darn catchy. And it’s a song that Zoey and I have recently been playing on repeat.

“There you go, Zoey!” I say. “There’s your music right there. And it’s one of our favorites!”

But just as soon as I say that, the song fades as the man walks away to continue his shopping trip. Yet Zoey, who is obviously on board with the idea, refuses to be deterred.

“Pick up where he left off, Mommy!” she begs, and of course, I happily oblige.

Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it’s 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still…

As I sing this fun song and watch Zoey flit around the aisles, I find myself lost in a silly little mash-up of time, where the moments from my past are colliding with the moments of my present.

1986, I think. A year where a little girl made some memories with a song that still linger today.

The moment feels almost perfect, but I know how I can make it even better.

“Come on, Zoey,” I say as I reach my hand out to her. “Let’s get out of here.”


* * *

When we get home, I tell Zoey to get dressed up in her fanciest dress-up clothes. While she changes, I pull out the record and get it ready for playing, and when she’s done, I share with Zoey of why this album makes me so happy.

“So I can be in a pageant, too?” Zoey squeals, clapping her hands together.

“You bet,” I say as I smile and pull her close. And then, into her tiny ear, I whisper, “I have a hunch you just might win it, too.”  

I start the music and settle in on the couch. Zoey parades around and hands me toy after toy after toy. I woop and holler and cheer her on, and then, after she takes a few more laps around the apartment, I officially declare her the winner of the 2017 Living Room Pageant. And again, it’s a good thing there’s no crown involved, because it would just get in the way of the crazy dancing we do afterward.

And all the while, throughout this afternoon of fun, we are surrounded by the perfect soundtrack for these tender moments we share, the moments in which we make lasting memories filled with the beautiful notes of laughter, togetherness, and—most importantly—love.

Because that’s the magic of music: regardless of your age, the year, the place you’re in, or who you are with, you can remember it—and feel it—still.

* * *

Let me know: Is there a song that transports you back to your childhood? Do you have strong associations or memories with a particular type of music?

coreyCorey is a writer, graphic designer, and mom to her amazing daughter, Zoey. Here at The Nostalgia Diaries, her goal is to simplify, enhance, and engage people’s lives by helping them focus on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.

Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.

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19 thoughts on “Week 46: The Memory-Making Magic of Music | Everyday Nostalgia

  1. How sweet! It makes me feel young again! Just after i finish this comment I will go and look for my records and photos! Thank you for this great day!

  2. That’s amazing! I also notice myself in my little daughter sometimes. And as for music, it does bring a LOT of memories from the past. I love it when it hits me like that 🙂

  3. Music really does bring back memories. I have a Billy Joel memory too, my cousins and I – probably the same year of your Living Room Pageant – had a little “rock and roll band” and we would play Billy Joel’s For the Longest Time and Lionel Riche’s Dancing on the Ceiling. Everytime I hear those songs I’m transported to my aunt’s basement, fake guitar in hand, jamming with my cousins and loving life.

  4. Absolutely!!! My parents were married in 1966 and were in the Folk Music scene. So, I grew up listening to all the Vietnam era folk singers. Peter, Paul, & Mary, Kingston Trio, etc. I still listen to that type of music to this day when I am feeling nostalgic or need to chill out. 😉

  5. This is so weird, because I wrote about music today and the post made me feel all kinds of nostalgic for what was, what is, and what’s soon to be… I loved the memories Billy Joel evokes for you and that it takes you back to that living room pageant and that it’s now a memory you can share with your daughter and perhaps one she’ll share with her daughter one day <3

    This is beautiful.

    Also I love that "ooooh, I'm a rebel just for kicks, man"–it makes me feel nostalgic in the weirdest way, too. Like I recognize it somehow or perhaps it's just the infectious melody that pulls me in. Wishing you all the best for the week ahead, and I absolutely adore your writing. So very much.

  6. Oh my goodness – we used to do such similar things when we were young – concerts, dance pageants – even a circus once?! It’s funny how music brings back to mind so many memories!

  7. That album came a little later in my timeline than yours, Corey. The title track definitely meant something to me then, and a different something to me now.

    I love how you transported a moment of your childhood to Z’s. And that she was so receptive! I can just see the you at her age with the Z of today playing together.

    “Let it Be” and “My Sweet Lord” came to mind about my childhood. Interesting that it wasn’t something sillier! No matter at what age, I remember these songs being … comfort songs? I think that’s the best way to categorize it.

    So good to be back here with you.

  8. I just love the power of music. It can bring back so many wonderful memories. Whenever I hear the old country song “Achy Brakey Heart,” I am transported back to my childhood living room where I learned to line dance with my sister and aunt 🙂

  9. Music is so powerful and always has been for me, a song can take me right back to a moment, time and place – it’s amazing. Kylie Minogue sums up my childhood – or Tins Turner! Happy, happy times!

  10. Corey, I just love the way you weave a story together! You made me feel all the things and get nostalgic (so fitting!) over some of my favorite songs. Billy Joel always takes me back to childhood too. And Lately I’ve been listening to a bunch of high school favorites — New Found Glory, Dashboard Confessional, The Starting Line, and all kinds of emo pop/rock make me so warm inside.

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