I was lost in thought during my walk this morning when the Four Seasons “Marlena” came on my MP3 player. I was transported back many years to the nights when I shot pool with a friend on his unleveled table while “Marlena” and the other The Four Seasons’ Greatest Hits played over and over again on his record player. I wasn’t thinking much about what I wanted to do with my life. All I cared about was sinking the straight-on shot in front of me and smoking the stale the cigarettes I had pilfered from my parents ancient stash.
These are private memories. As I relive them, I live in the past. The details mean nothing to anyone but me. That’s the problem with so many memoirs and personal essays: they mean nothing to anyone but the writer. I may want to share them, but who really cares about experiences no one but I had? Maybe readers will be polite and humor me, or something.
It’s not that there’s nothing human and universal to be shared. I could talk about the ease with which kids can improvise fun from something like an out-of-plumb pool table. I could talk about the naughty joy of getting away with something like smoking stolen cigarettes. (How little I knew.) I could talk about the days when records played on turntables were the latest technology. I could talk about the unspoken friendship that was nourished by hours of doing nothing.
These memories bring out feelings that almost everyone has felt. They are “cocoon” memories. They are private memories belong exclusively to me, yet they are memories that are both universal and unique and private. It may not be possible for me to share precisely what listening to “Marlena” in my friend’s basement felt like. Still, I know that others have had their own “Marlena” moments and know exactly what I’m talking about.