“Downtown” and December

by Judy Berman  

There’s a jukebox in my head. When a certain tune plays on that virtual soundtrack, it takes me back.

Some songs are like worm-holes. They take you to a time and place you don’t want to return to. I won’t mention them for fear that they will be like an endless tape-loop in your brain. Oh, what the heck. “It’s a Small World After All.” I’ve seen grown-ups run from the room screaming in anguish, knowing that they will be mindlessly humming that tune all day because it’s now imbedded in their head.

Others may stir up memories that deposit you gently in a nostalgic setting and lift you out of a bluesy-funk. For me, December and Petula Clark’s “Downtown” will be forever intertwined. Both link to my first apartment when I moved away from home. The tune was upbeat. It made me feel less lonely and very hopeful about my new digs.

Envision this: I moved from the country into an apartment in Syracuse, N.Y. At night the old, run-down house looked like the one behind the Bates Motel in the movie “Psycho.”  Uninviting, foreboding. I would have to share the bathroom with some stranger – some unknown tenant who would live across the hall from my third-floor, walk-up apartment.

Why was it, again, that I was making this move? That question, among others, raced through my mind that December evening as I trudged up the stairs carrying my belongings.

At a small table, in my sparsely decorated one-room apartment, I watched sadly as my Dad backed up his Volkswagen. Snowflakes fell more furiously as he drove off. It was about two weeks before Christmas, and my parents would be moving to another state in less than two months.

A tiny snow globe on the table was my only holiday decoration.

I was 21 and eager to be on my own. But I was torn between celebrating my newfound independence and leaving the security of my parents’ home. It’s the flight that most of us feel we have to take to really be considered grown up.

The thought of partying the nights away sounded exciting. But I also was savvy enough to know I’d pay for that as I sleep-walked, bleary-eyed around the office the following day.

Yeah, that sure would get old real fast.

As I sat there, considering the abrupt change in my life, a song on the radio intruded into my thoughts.

“Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city, linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty,” Petula Clark sang.

“Downtown, where all the lights are bright. Downtown, waiting for you tonight. Downtown, you’re gonna be all right now.”

I dismissed the nagging thought that I might be spending Christmas alone and began to sing along. Downtown was less than a mile from my apartment. Time to view the brightly decorated Christmas trees.  I cheered up as I began to weigh the endless possibilities and adventures that lay in wait.

Now, when I hear that tune, a wave of nostalgia floods over me. While it dredges up some sad times, it also reminds me that opportunity beckons. All I need to do is open the door, remember the wonder of discovering something new and embrace the change.

What song sparks a special time of year for you?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

(Click the link below to hear Petula Clark’s “Downtown”)


  1. Oh, no, I’m not clicking that link. It’s bad enough that I’ll have “It’s A Small World” tormenting me for the rest of the day. Wonderful post, though, Judy. I could almost see that tiny snow globe on the table.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I can still see that tiny snow globe and the whole apartment – two hot plates, an iddy-biddy fridge and the bath across the hall. Egad! What was I thinking? (I enjoyed your reaction.)

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