Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Those Memory Keys

This morning I was comfortably ensconced on my sofa reading a book, with the TV set to a Christmas music station for background ambiance. My attention was primarily on my book, but I suddenly had a mental snapshot from 1945.

White Christmas was playing, and it was one of those memory keys for me. You know what a memory key is--it could be a sound, a piece of music, a smell, a phrase in a book, a bit of scenery, or a photo. Whatever it is, it immediately keys into a memory and pops it into your mind.

That's what happened to me with White Christmas. Even though I was scarcely paying attention to the background music, a scene from the Christmas season of 1945 popped into my head.

Now for most of you 1945 is practically the Dark Ages. For me it was the year I turned four years old, WWII was winding down at last, our father was in the Army and overseas in the Philippines, and our mother had taken a teaching job in a little one-room country school (which I have previously written about). My sister Terry was in the 3rd grade, my sister Grace was in the 2nd grade, and, having nothing else to do with me during school hours, Mother was teaching me first grade. There were three other students in the school that year, whose regular homes were in the country.

Of course, this is not exactly the model we had,
but it is similar.
For people of this electronic age, it may be difficult to understand our excitement over a mail-order piece of equipment Mother got from Montgomery Ward shortly before Christmas. It was a wind-up portable phonograph (record player)! With it, she also got an album of records. Now records of that time were large disks with one song on each side. An album was a collection of several such disks, which fit into paper sleeves, bound between hard covers book-style. To play a song you wound up the record player, placed the chosen record on the turntable, turned it on, and carefully placed the needle on the outer rim of the record. I do not remember how many records could be played before it was necessary to rewind the phonograph, but I do remember how the sound slooooowed down, making the voices and music change comically, as the turntable moved slower and slower.

It was a magical thing for a four-year-old.

The scene that popped into my head this morning was in that one-room schoolhouse, with that little record player playing Bing Crosby singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas."

Rose McLaughlin with her daughters, Terry, Michelle, and Grace, outside Teckla School