One of my favorite bands is a British band named Elbow. My favorite song of Elbow’s is called “Switching Off.”
Last of the men in hats hops off the coil
And a final scene unfolds inside
Deep in the rain of sparks behind his brow
Is a part replayed from a perfect day
Teaching her how to whistle like a boy
Love’s first blush
I sometimes rewind those lines several times repeatedly. I’m entranced by the idea of a perfect day, also how such a simple memory can stand out above the rest. Teaching her how to whistle like a boy.
My friend Brian’s favorite movie is Good Will Hunting. I rewatched it the other night. There’s a scene in the movie in which Robin Williams, who plays Sean Maguire, a therapist, is talking to Matt Damon about his wife, who passed away two years earlier. He says:
My wife used to fart when she was nervous. She had all sorts of wonderful little idiosyncrasies. She used to fart in her sleep. I thought I’d share that with you. One night it was so loud it woke the dog up. She woke up and went ‘ah was that you?’ And I didn’t have the heart to tell her.
But Will, she’s been dead for 2 years, and that’s the shit I remember: wonderful stuff you know? Little things like that. Those are the things I miss the most. The little idiosyncrasies that only I know about: that’s what made her my wife. Oh she had the goods on me too, she knew all my little peccadilloes. People call these things imperfections, but they’re not. Ah, that’s the good stuff.
The small moments that were unexpected—it’s always these memories we remember. Not the elaborate dinners or parties that were planned so exquisitely.
I’m not sure how many perfect days we get in this lifetime. If any, it’s probably not more than one or two. I’ve had one. It involved a train, a man with a mohawk, and some really bad salted meat. How can those memories—the quirky, unplanned ones—stand out so prominently?
Perfect days are much too rare. But maybe that’s the point. If they weren’t so uncommon, we wouldn’t remember them with such affection.
Teaching her how to whistle like a boy.