To be a rock and not to roll | Columns

What triggers your memories, your personal history flooding back to you from time past?

Is it a sight or a sound or a situation? Is it a song, a face, something painful you had not experienced in years, that suddenly came flooding back into your consciousness, until tears welled in your eyes and you were taken back to the day, the hour, the very moment you experienced whatever it was that brought out that powerful emotion?

That, my friends, is history. It’s not some writing in a textbook, it’s not some bit or piece on the History Channel, or a snippet in time you are watching on TV. Each of us is a history book, a history lesson, a life’s history. The older you get, the more that history book fills its pages.

I’ve written about this before, but it seems my history book of pages all are coming back to me at once.

And, I’m not talking about the “big” things in our lives. Those are a given. We will remember those as long as we live.

I’m talking about the little things, the stuff we have experienced in our day-to-day lives, maybe only in passing, maybe only for fleeting moments — yet they stay with us, tucked in our memories, tucked in our unconscious thoughts, packed away until they come springing back as real and as vivid as when we experienced them years before.

In the past few months, with the passing of my mom, memories flooded back on the day we buried her next to my dad, earlier this month in Waukomis Cemetery.

I’ve walked those many rows of graveyard stones countless times, seeing names inscribed that were real and vibrant people from my youth — names I took for granted.

They were people who lived in my hometown, faces I would most times irregularly see, but I knew them and they knew me.

And, they are gone now — but only in the sense they are no longer among us. That’s what memories are for — the good, the bad, the funny, the in-betweens we call everyday lives.

I spoke after the funeral with Gene Anderson, who has been around and involved in my small community and Enid since I can remember — who worked part time in his youth at our family weekly newspaper, the Oklahoma Hornet and Christy Printing.

He shared a few tidbits from his memory of our town, of my mom, of my family, both poignant and heart-felt.

As east-wind raindrops from a nearby rainstorm threatened, we shared how lucky we were to be able to grow up in a small town like Waukomis, in an era of American history that is singular to both of us, that is unique in our individual experiences.

When I went off to a big university in the fall of 1968, America was changing dramatically from those small-town lazy-day grade school and high school days in the late 1950s and ‘60s, that seemed like they would never end.

Remember looking at the clock above the teacher’s desk, and thinking that hour was the longest hour of your life?

I wished I had that hour back — all those hours I spent in school — but just for the nostalgia, and seeing again that they weren’t all that bad, or all that long.

I was watching and listening to a 2012 YouTube reprise of a then-live tribute from Washington’s Kennedy Center to the rock group Led Zeppelin.

Wow, talk about memories.

The group sprang upon the music scene in my first semester at OU, and many of their songs still are tucked away in my best memories.

The greatest rock band of all time — with four of the recognized greatest rock musicians of all time in singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, late drummer John Bonham, along with keyboards/bassist John Paul Jones.

And, as Ann Wilson and her sister Nancy rolled out “Stairway to Heaven” in a stirring tribute, I watched the faces of those still fabulously talented musicians sitting in balcony seats of honor, faces now furrowed, hair graying, their youthful looks replaced by the experience of old guys reliving the flower of their youth.

There were smiles and tears and obvious memories.

My generation grew up with the rock music of Led Zeppelin, The Band, The Who, Moody Blues, the Stones, Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison.

Music has been called the link we all share with one another. I don’t care who you are, what your beliefs are, what your politics or your religion, music is a common bridge we all walk across every day of our lives.

Listening to their music again returned me to my youth — my memories.

Many didn’t have the good fortune of growing up in small-town America, in the era I did.

To be a rock … and not to roll.

Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Visit his column blog at

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