The start of school doesn’t affect me much anymore.

OK, it does affect me some. Drivers have to be more cautious in zones where students cross streets. Also, check-out lines at stores have been longer because parents and their children were buying clothes and school supplies. Soon, those shelves will hold Christmas decorations instead of crayons and pencils. Christmas is almost here, you know.

Back-to-school shopping is a duty every family with children can appreciate.

It’s a process each August that brings to mind one particular day in one particular year during childhood when my parents took me to one particular store. For some reason, I felt especially empowered in making those selections.

For the most part, I enjoyed school. But whether the memories are good or bad, even the most routine things can trigger them.

One of my childhood rituals before school started was cleaning out the desk drawers in my bedroom. My parents gave me all summer to complete this chore, but I’ve always been driven by deadlines. I’d wait until the last day. I couldn’t understand the need for it, because even in the chaos I knew where things were.

I understand the need now, but I don’t act on it often enough. While more than just the desk needs my attention these days, I can still find reasons to delay work “until tomorrow.”

It’s curious how certain events, sounds, mementos, and even smells can remind us of the past.

Right now, a broken clock radio and a small black-and-white television set gather dust in our garage. Whenever I think I might get rid of them, they send me back to evenings in my bedroom during high school. I depended on them to see shows like “Beverly Hillbillies” or listen to the Top 40 while doing homework.

Music, and especially the music you grew up with, can transport you to other places and times.

The world lost musician Glen Campbell on Aug. 8, and the tributes have been poignant.

Whenever I hear his “Wichita Lineman” composed by Jimmy Webb, I’m back at a downtown post office in North Carolina in December 1968. The song was playing on the car’s tape deck as I mailed our family’s Christmas cards. The temperature was 10 degrees, and snow was predicted. If you know the lyrics, the stories connect.

After Campbell’s passing, a disc jockey mentioned that Aug. 10 was the birthday of the late Bobby Hatfield, half of the Righteous Brothers and another major component of the soundtrack of my youth. In ninth grade, our co-ed dance class always ended with one of their melancholy hits.

There’s more.

One Elvis tune reminds me of a Sunday afternoon drive with parents. A Beach Boys song finds me leaving church after a party. A Four Tops selection puts me in the mall with friends. A Simon and Garfunkel classic has me driving on a narrow Mississippi highway.

Baby-boomers are seeing many celebrities of our youth — whether in music, movies or television — pass away. Time marches on. They will be missed, but thanks to the work they created, these artists live on.

Glen Campbell’s music touched many, just as the disease that took him touches many. Tragically, that disease cost him his memories. May our memories be long, and strong.

 

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at news@brownwoodbulletin.com.