I woke up one day last year with my head filled with songs by Cliff Richard, Pat Boone, Johnny Mathis, and Andy Williams. What was even weirder was I know the lyrics of many of them. So I googled the lyrics I heard mentally and found out who sang them. These singers had their heyday in the 50s when I was a child.
I emailed Aunt Evelyn and found out from her that she and her sisters used to play these singers' 45s and LPs (that's Long Playing for you, young techies). I remember them singing along and dancing to these tunes with some male teen friends who came over their house.
Recent researches call the phenomenon earworm, literal translation from the German orhwurm. Consumer psychologist and marketing professor James Kellaris is credited for coining this word to mean a cognitive itch created by a catchy tune and the only way to scratch it is by repeating it over and over in our minds.
While earworms seem to characterize the annoying songs stuck in our heads, in my case it always is a pleasant experience, except for one time which I will dwell upon later. I usually sing along with the tunes I hear mentally. It felt like having an internal ipod. I do experience earworms from time to time but only for a few minutes or so. Like that time when unprovoked, Kylie Minogue's lalala-lalalalala-lalala-lalalalala I just can't get you out of my head. . . played on a loop in my mind for five minutes.
In 1990 however, I heard Jules Massenet's Meditation from Thais for three days straight. On the first day, after class, I went to the food center on the third floor of a local mall for snacks. As soon as I sat down with my order, I heard it. I was surprised that the public address/sound system would play it instead of a Top 40 hit song. On the second day, the same thing happened. But on the third day, I heard it again. So I went down to the second floor where the music bar was and asked if they were playing it. No, they were playing Madonna's song. I went to the ground floor where the customer relations desk and public address/sound system was and asked the lady there. She took out the cassette tape being played and showed it to me. Air Supply. Then it dawned on me that I was hearing the tune in my head!
A year later, while watching a popular weekend TV show's November feature, I finally got my answer. Lauro Vizconde, the father whose wife and two daughters were murdered in their house, recounted that it became his habit to go to their daughters' rooms to tell them good night before retiring and how he would find the youngest daughter's favorite stuffed on the floor. He would pick it up and replace it on a shelf over her bed. And the next night, the toy would be on the floor again. A guest psychic explained to Lauro the nature of haunting by departed family members. He said the dead who are dear to us would haunt us, not to scare us, but to remind us of their presence. That's why they would often use things that would associate them to us.
After the show, I checked the previous year's planner and discovered that the first day I heard the classic tune was the 40th day after the burial of our mother. Mama knew Meditation from Thais was a favorite of mine and for days since she died after a failed triple bypass, it was the only song I played on the Sony component. It must be her way of reassuring me that everything's fine with her.