Do you have a historian in your family? No, not the know-it-all cousin who could be featured on the History Channel. I’m talking about someone who’s committed to preserving your family’s memories.
We preserve memories in a lot of ways, including collecting photos, saving certificates and awards, and holding onto souvenirs from family vacations. I would say that I’m my family’s (self-appointed) historian. Although, I don’t preserve my family’s memories by collecting photos or souvenirs. I collect my family’s music.
Admittedly, I’ve always loved music, so taking on this role wasn’t a stretch. But I recognized early on that, if your sense of smell has the strongest tie to your memories (who wants to collect smells?), then music is a close number two.
Being your family’s music historian is not just about collecting the music of everyone’s favorite artists. It’s about identifying and collecting albums and songs that, when listened to, can take you back to the special, little moments in your shared history. Often times, you’d be surprised by what music turns out to be the most significant to you and your loved ones.
On a recent trip to my family’s cabin, my dad, uncle, a couple of family friends, and I were relaxing by the fireplace late one evening. I was manning the music, rolling through the standard “cabin playlist,” when my dad asked if I had any music by the Mills Brothers: a popular jazz and pop vocal quartet from the early 20th century.
I didn’t (like any normal person in their late 20s), but luckily someone else did. After a brief musical hiatus and some light teasing for my ignorance, over the speakers came the four-part harmony of the Mills Brothers.
The music geek in me thought it was great, but I also found the choice odd. This didn’t seem like the right music for this group of guys. However, it wasn’t 15 seconds into the first song that something interesting happened.
When the guys around me weren’t singing along word for word, they were laughing and telling stories. They reminisced about when they were young and first listening to the Mills Brothers. They talked about their parents who introduced them to the group. They remembered past trips to the cabin. This led to another story, then another story, and so on.
I could see in their eyes that, while they were physically sitting by the fire, their minds were swept up in memories and how much joy that brought them. And it’s all because of this seemingly odd choice in music. And now, whenever I listen to the Mills Brothers, I’m brought back to that moment with my family and friends and sharing in their joy.
Being the family historian is not easy and often times thankless. However, when you pull out that rare photo, find that old souvenir, or play that perfect song at the right moment, it’s incredibly rewarding to you and your family.