Revisiting Music Memories


I’m off to Seattle this week to visit family. I’m going to miss the ocean’s close proximity, but I’m looking forward to seeing my family. It’s been a while. In fact, the last time all of us were together was when my grandmother passed away suddenly in December 2011. She had a stroke one afternoon, and within 24 hours she was gone.

Some of the first memories I have that involve music are of spending time at my grandmother’s apartment a few blocks from the Space Needle. (Not surprisingly, those memories also involve records.) My brother and I would gather around her stereo system as she placed the needle down on “long players” by Harry Belafonte, Alvin & The Chipmunks, or the musical West Side Story. We’d dance around the living room to the songs, laughing away our afternoons together.

My father got a job in Hawaii when my brother and I were in elementary school, so we bid farewell to our extended family and spent the majority of our childhood growing up in Mililani. But every summer, we returned to Seattle to see our loved ones.

As I grew older, I started writing more. When my grandmother found out that I had joined my high school’s newspaper, she was swift to retrieve the regular column she wrote for her college newspaper. (Before she let me read through her writing, she warned: “Growing up in Kansas I was raised on a steady diet of corn, so please pardon the puns.” Her jokes have been ingrained in me ever since.) She encouraged me that one day I’ll have a column of my own.

I also started listening to more music in high school. While my older brother had a penchant for playing guitar, I started sampling records and making beats. When my grandma heard about our musical endeavors, she was quick to show her support — so much so that every summer when we returned to Seattle, my grandma’s first plan would be to take me to the nearest record store.

She didn’t know this, but I often tried to decline her offer because I knew I’d spend at least an hour in the shop and I didn’t want her to grow tired waiting for me. She never minded. Actually, there were times when I’d finish up, only to find her still scouring music titles, not quite ready to leave.

Seattle won’t be the same without her. When I reflect on becoming a weekly Metro contributor, I’m reminded of a line I read in my grandmother’s own column: “I can’t tell you how much fun it is to write this column … because I have always typed it.” I only wish I could call, text, Skype, Facebook message, or simply tell her in person during this trip how much she continues to inspire me today.

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