In February, Taylor Swift released a re-recorded version of “Love Story,” fondly known in my mind as the song that made me a Swift fan.
During my inaugural listen of “Love Story (Taylor’s Version),” the first strike of that folky guitar planted a familiar feeling in my chest. It was like adrenaline, but laced with warm memories: nostalgia.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with nostalgia; I can easily get whisked away in a gust of remembrance–romanticizing the past in ways it shouldn’t be. But for the most part, it’s a close friend that I am giddy about meeting once in awhile.
I like to look at memory as a gust of wind. Sometimes you can only see it out the window, rattling the leaves on a tree. You know it’s there, but you’re not immersed, you can’t feel it. When we recall and remember every day, we don’t always feel it at the deep level of humanity that nostalgia can touch.
But sometimes you’re outside, smelling budding pear trees in the spring, listening to birds chirp, and you feel the wind dance across your skin. And it’s that breeze, that smell, that sound, that streetlight shadow, that frost-covered breath or that song you first heard when you were eleven that makes you stop.
And you’re back. In that moment. In that memory. You no longer feel like you are in your 23 and a half year-old body, but you are 5th grade Lauren in the living room at Kathleen’s house. You are swinging scarves in circles, dancing with your friends as music blares through the TV speaker, and it’s a song you’ve never heard before, but it feels special.
Oh, eleven-year-old Lauren, it is special.
That song will be the first you buy on your purple iPod Nano. You will memorize every lyric, drum beat, background vocal, and key change. You will belt that song at the top of your lungs in the car with your mom and brother, and when you start driving yourself, often at night with Maddie in the passenger seat, it will never be skipped.
That song will be a companion in every stage of your adolescence, into young adulthood, into your mid-twenties. You will try to play it on ukulele and you will fake propose to your friends when it’s performed at every Taylor Swift concert you attend.
Then, that song will have new life breathed into it in 2021, after a tumultuous year filled with grief and fear and regret. And it will welcome you as an old friend.
And it will remind you that there are some moments, some memories, that will never leave. They will stay camped in your heart and your brain, and they will remind you who you are in the moments you forget.