I'm not particularly a fan of opera. This is not through want of trying. There's just something about it that I can never quite make myself enjoy. So when a bit of it came on the radio (well, on Classic FM), I was surprised by just how visceral and immediate my reaction was.
I was aged eleven years. It was a grey and wintry January Saturday, and I was driving round with my father in the early afternoon, because he wanted to go to estate sales and see if he could find any interesting bargains. My father always had the radios tuned to the local classical station - not because he particularly enjoyed it, I don't think, but because it was the least offensive thing to him on the airwaves, and he didn't just want silence. And on Saturday afternoons, the Metropolitan Opera of New York was always broadcast. Although I would listen, honestly, I could never learn to like it. So the grey January and opera became associated - quite unfairly, as much of it was written by Italians - in my mind. Never the twain shall part.
The winter sense of this recollection was very stark. As I write, another winter storm is bearing down, purportedly promising snow and ice in significant volumes. The older I grow, the less fond I am of winter, and no longer really have the thoughtless sense of diablerie that I had at twenty-five when it comes to going out in the cold. But as a child, well - children love the snow. I see it with my own kids, and can remember what it felt like then to be faced with the chance of a "snow day": words to conjure by. I just can't quite share the feeling. I can get close, but never entirely there. Which is a shame, and a defect on my part, I imagine.
The degree to which the sense memory triggered by a few snatches of opera was quite surprising, almost Proustian. And it makes me rather conscious of the fact that - inadvertently, I could produce the same result in my own children, twenty or thirty years from now. Hopefully, the association will be slightly better than mine.