They say that of all five senses, smell is the one most closely linked to memory, and it’s true. Just one whiff of original Jergen’s lotion and instantly I’m back in Clyde, Texas watching my grandmother get ready for church. But fragrance aside, I believe there is another direct path to our deepest recollections and it is by way of music. To illustrate my point, I’m going to tell you about a particular song and the memory I personally associate with it.
A couple of years ago my husband and I were eating dinner at one of our favorite restaurants not far from where we live, a little outdoor bistro situated quite literally on the sand of Hollywood Beach, just south of Ft. Lauderdale. Munching on our pizza, we engaged in a little "people watching” as the moon slowly rose over the ocean. At first I paid little attention to the beautiful piped-in music that floated softly overhead and mingled with the warm ocean breeze, but then "The Way You Look Tonight” from Rod Stewart's album, "It Had to Be You" started to play. ( If you really want the full effect of this article, go grab the song from iTunes and let it provide the background music. It's an absolutely lovely rendition.)
Anyway, I must have had some sort of dreamy, far-away look in my eyes because Marc reached over and gently put his hand over mine, no doubt anticipating the romantic encounter sure to follow this lovely night out. But when he asked me what I was thinking about, he didn’t get quite the answer he was hoping for. Instead I smiled and said, "The Golden Rooster.” If you could have seen his face, well, it looked every bit as bewildered as yours probably does right now. So I’ll explain it to you, just as I explained it to him that evening.
Listening to the song took me back to 1976. Marc and I had just bought our first little house and we were understandably a bit "house poor”, to the extent that when my parents graciously offered to treat us to dinner at a fancy supper club, "The Golden Rooster”, we eagerly jumped at the chance. After all, what kind of idiot would turn down free lobster? Following one of the most sumptuous meals I’d had in a long time, I noticed that several couples had gradually found their way to the dance floor. And then, just as the orchestra began to play "The Way You Look Tonight”, my father stood up, came over to my chair, extended his hand, and asked. "May I have this dance?”
We joined the others on the beautifully polished parquet floor and started to dance. Of course you have to know that not only was my dad dreamily handsome, he was also a wonderful dancer, which more than made up for the fact that I am not. I guess it’s like folks used to say about Fred Astaire – that he could dance with a hat rack and make it look good. On this occasion, despite being somewhat of a hat rack, I found myself gracefully swaying and even occasionally slowly twirling to the slow, gentle tempo of the music.
The whole time we were on that floor, Daddy kept looking at me with this tender, direct gaze that seemed to be using the words of the song to express his feelings, and when it was over, he kissed my forehead and said, "I think you look absolutely beautiful.” It was a priceless gift, especially when you consider the fact that I was eight and a half months pregnant at the time.
You see, for weeks leading up to that evening, I had been looking at myself in the mirror and wondering, "Where is this ‘radiant glow’ everybody keeps talking about?” All I could see was an increasingly burgeoning belly, swollen ankles, and the face of a woman who obviously wasn’t getting enough sleep.
What made the moment on the dance floor so special was that somehow on this particular night, not only did my father see that glow; for the very first time, through his eyes, I actually saw it myself.
The "Golden Rooster” has been gone for many years now. Unfortunately the glow has too. And sadly, so has my father. But every time I hear this song, in my mind we take to the floor, where he holds me gently, and as we dance I always remember The Way I Looked That Night.