Most adults (of my parents’ generation) I meet are always surprised when I’m able to sing along to the likes of Humperdinck, Reeves, Jones, Richard, Bennett, Sinatra, The Carpenters, etc. Sometimes I surprise myself too when I find myself mouthing the syllables to the songs of Teresa Teng and Sam Hui – especially when most of the time I’m not too sure what they actually mean. But such is the power of repetition and what it does to the brain.
And by repetition, I mean I used to hear their songs every morning on weekends. This was my dad’s idea of getting our lazy bums off the bead on a Saturday morning: (1) Give a hard knock on our door; (2) Turn off the fan, draw open the curtains; (3) Keep our bedroom door open, and blast the oldies away proudly on his stereo system.
It got better over the years when dad also added a nice Harman/Kardon amplifier (his pride and joy that still exists until today). My brother and I would increase our threshold of tolerance in sleeping without the fan on – but we could never beat the stereo. Within minutes, we would be dragging our feet to the bathroom, while our dad would be reading the papers like any other morning. My mom would be yelling from the kitchen asking my dad to bring it down. For awhile we actually suspected that dad may have a little difficulty in hearing – but none of us were brave enough to ask dad – he won’t admit it anyway.
I hated waking up to those songs. But during the times when I’m not in the middle of a peaceful slumber – I actually enjoy them. I remember how excited we were when dad bought a VCR player (Gen-Z’s, you may google what VCR is) that came with a karaoke function! And apart from my Disney songs, I would croon (or croak) along to the old songs again and again and again. The karaoke regime didn’t last long (and thankfully so) when our house got broken in and that was the only thing the robber took from us (I think the 1000th rendition of “Donna, Donna, Donna” from a seven-year old made him do it).
Now that I’m hardly home, these songs remind me of my family. When I pass CD shops that play an oldie or two, I smile. When I hear the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll being played in the malls, I feel like dancing along in my imaginary pair of blue suede shoes. When one of the Chinese neighbors blasts Teresa Teng and sings aloud to a point where I could hear it at the parking lot after a long day of work, I find it pleasantly annoying.
And when someone recognizes a song and mouths the words with me, as if we are the only two people in the world who knows it – it’s one of the most amazing feelings in the world.
It feels like that time my aunt and I danced to Elvis Presley as she was ironing clothes away.
It feels like the time my mom would sing one of The Carpenter’s to lull me to sleep.
It feels like the time my brother first mastered the guitar and us cousins sang to “The Young Ones” with my uncle.
It feels like everything is going to be okay, just like how it was back then.
It feels like home.