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Hold onto your memories (especially if there's '80s music)

I’m writing today from Bridget’s Cafe in Zumbrota, while listening to Prince’s "Let’s Go Crazy" for the second time this morning. The music is being piped in overhead — and I don’t know what the special occasion is, but I’m going with it. I am nothing if not a child of the '80s, and I cannot hear the organ flourish at the beginning of that song without mouthing along, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…."

Of course I know all the words. And of course I had the poster of Prince and The Revolution (Minnesota boy done good!) on my bedroom wall as a teen — the one folded into the album sleeve and opened to reveal Prince in all his royal purpleness, with his stone-faced band fanned out behind him. It was the edgiest thing I had in my blue-walled, laced-curtain, Kirk Cameron-plastered bedroom for years.

The album was Purple Rain and I loved it — even though I wasn’t allowed to see the movie. It was rated R and my parents were the variety who thought 14- or 15-year-old girls didn’t need to see R-rated movies. (I thought them horridly unfair at the time, of course, and now grudgingly admit to full approval.)

I didn’t need to see the movie to appreciate the music. And by "appreciate," of course, I mean, "play it 57 times a day" and "masterfully find the appropriate groove in the vinyl for any of the album’s given songs." (I can’t help but wonder what percentage of my reader friends have no idea what I’m talking about.)

At any rate, "Let’s Go Crazy" was my favorite song on the album. I’d jump on the old black-and-white striped couch in the basement and sing along, throwing my fist in the air, "Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh no! Let’s go!"


And that’s where I am right now — sitting in Bridget’s Cafe eating my third breakfast sandwich in as many days, and simultaneously jumping off the arm of that old couch, the dust from the cushions bouncing in the streaks of sunlight criss-crossing the room, my permed hair whipping against my face, as I sing, "Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go crazy!"

The whole thing makes me think of a William Faulkner quote: "The past is never dead, it is not even past."

Life gets fuller

Memory intrigues me — how it can feel so present, so real, so now. While it’s not prudent to live in the past, of course, I love how memories dot and deepen the present. Maybe that’s why life expands, gets fuller, as we age — there’s so much more to it.

I just met a man — no more than 25 minutes ago — named Gerald. He was filling his coffee cup near my table here at Bridget’s, and we caught one another’s eye. "You renting that table?" he said, having seen me in the same spot yesterday.

I laughed. "My son’s at camp at Crossings this week," I answered, pointing down the street. "I’ve been working here mornings while I wait for him to finish."

We started a warm conversation — sharing stories — and ultimately spoke of memory. "They say you can’t remember anything before you’re three," he said. "Do you think that’s true?"

Living history


He was born in 1938, he told me, and thinks he remembers when Pearl Harbor was bombed. That day, he heard some commotion on the radio and asked his parents what happened. He could tell they were upset, but they wouldn’t tell him what happened.

He wants to write his life story. I encouraged him. To leave a record of a life, yes — but also for the experience of reliving the years.

As I get ready to close up and retrieve my son this morning, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s "Say, Say, Say" plays overhead. Suddenly, I’m in my friend Tristen’s living room, watching the singers play old-time con men on the video on MTV. And, of course, I’m at Bridget’s, feeling pretty lucky that some of my best memories have an '80s soundtrack.

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