Music can bring back strong memories

By Sarah Contreras

I can’t listen to the Rolling Stones without thinking of my father. In fact, I can’t listen to Queen, The Beatles, The Eagles, Peter Frampton, Creedence Clearwater Revival or Sade without thinking of my father. And you know what? These memories, at times, can be a lot to handle. But I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I lost my father in June of 2000, when I was 12 years old. Like many deaths, it was sudden; like many other deaths, it was cruel. I could use this post to rail against this country’s shoddy handgun laws or the cycle of poverty that keeps bright young men and women from reaching their full potential or even the complete ignorance with which many people regard gangs and street violence.

But, as always, I am here to talk about music and not much else.

My dad, Richard Contreras, was a lover of music. My earliest recollections of him involve him running through our house singing Rod Stewart songs at the top of his lungs. He would sit in front of his clunky stereo system, rapidly changing CDs until he found just the right song. I remember mounds of CDs and constant, constant music pumping through the hallways. Anyone who knew my dad knew the three things he loved most in the world were me, my brother and his Rolling Stones live concert VHS collection.

Thankfully, Dad wanted me to love music, too. He encouraged my rifling through his CDs and taught me all the words to Hotel California. He would put on the classical music station while I did my homework, and he set my Walkman to whatever pop station he deemed appropriate whenever I wanted to jam out by myself. I have letters from him that are positively brimming with joy over my decision to start listening to The Beatles. Seriously—he was so proud, it was like I’d announced I’d been accepted to Harvard. I’m sure that if we had any money to our name, my dad would’ve enrolled me in music classes.

So here I am: 25 years old and my father’s daughter to the core. Not only do I have his eyes, nose and fabulously crooked smile, but I have his passion for music. Like my father, music is my heartbeat, music is my home. Like my father, I overcompensate for not being a musician by devouring every documentary, book and tidbit about music I possibly can. My love of all things music has pointed me to my writing job with the Northern Star and possibly my future career. This is all thanks to my father, and I am so deeply grateful for it.

I am hoping that most of you have an overabundance of memories when it comes to your mom and pop. If I were the praying type, that would be my singular plea, because I do not. My memories of my father have dwindled over the past few years because that is what time does—it fades things. But because of music, the few memories I do have will stay fresh for a very long time.

When I hear Imagine, I will remember him turning to me and saying, “Sarah Renae, this is the most beautiful song ever written.” When I hear Queen’s You’re My Best Friend, I will smile for the time he pulled me aside and told me that it was “our” song, because I was his favorite person. I will remember my dad explaining that Tears in Heaven is about the tragic death of Eric Clapton’s little boy. And, oh, will I remember his fierce embrace and understanding when 8-year-old me positively sobbed the first time I heard Let It Be. Whenever I feel blue, my father’s incredible laugh is just a song away.

I plan on getting another tattoo sometime soon, and this one will be for my father. I could go sappy, I could go plain. But I’ll probably go with “I am the Walrus,” because my dad was funky cool like that.

Listen to Sarah’s playlist here: