The Madonna Timeline: Song #27 – ‘I’ll Remember’ – Spring 1994

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

This would have been a perfect song a little later in the year, as it is so strongly associated with Spring for me – but the iPod will shuffle as it sees fit, so ‘I’ll Remember’ is up for discussion now. Some Madonna songs are filler – light throw-away moments that pass the time on car rides – but others are more distinctive sign-posts, framing and freezing a certain period of life that will remain tenaciously tied to a moment. This is one of the latter, and I can’t listen to it without thinking of the Spring of 1994 at Brandeis and in Boston, the last girl I ever kissed, and the loss of any final vestiges of childhood.

Say goodbye to not knowing when
the truth in my whole life began.
Say goodbye to not knowing how to cry
You taught me that.
And I’ll remember the strength that you gave me
Now that I’m standing on my own
I’ll remember the way that you saved me…
I’ll remember.

This was the very last time I walked into Tower Records, or any record store for that matter, without being keenly aware of a Madonna release – the Internet was just in the process of revolutionizing information – but for now, for this one final moment of ignorant innocence, I was oblivious to what I was about to find.

Making a quick flip through the Madonna section, I saw something called “I’ll Remember.” For the date, the photo on the cassette (yes, cassette) was questionable – it being a reused one from the “Rain” video, grainy and sub-par, but there was the Copyright of 1994. I quickly purchased it, popped it into my walkman, and as the opening Patrick Leonard-produced melody began, my heart leapt at this secret surprise.

Having just had my heart broken, by a girl no less – and no more – the song resonated more than Madonna songs usually resonate with me (which is a lot on their most unaffecting level), and the underlying melancholy and lost-love lyrics were another powerful link I felt to the artist.

Inside, I was a child,
That could not mend a broken wing.
Outside, I looked for a way
To teach my heart to sing,
And I’ll remember the love that you gave me
Now that I’m standing on my own.
I’ll remember the way that you changed me,
I’ll remember…

– – – – – – – – –

Back on campus, my Freshman year continued. The winter was relenting, the last of the most tenacious snow was finally melting in dirty patches. This was the time of heaves, when the earth buckled between moments of freezing and thawing, and the hearts of romantics followed tumultuous suit. Thoughts of suicide ravaged my head, and one night I found myself on the roof of the observatory building, looking over its edge and wondering. A couple of students burst into my silent reverie, giggling as their eyes adjusted to the dark, and still snickering even after they noticed another person standing there. I walked back to the staircase and descended.

– – – – – – – – –

I learned to let go
Of the illusion that we can possess
I learned to let go,
I travel in stillness,
And I’ll remember…

– – – – – – – – –

A couple of weeks later it was time to leave Brandeis. Somehow I had made it through a year of college, and I was returning home for the summer. At the end of April, or the very start of May, there was a solar eclipse. I remember watching the crescents of the sun filtered through the canopy of trees already in leaf outside my dormitory. Somewhere there are a few photos of those shadows, and that day. I was leaving Hassenfeld, my Freshman dorm, and my first year of college, and I was ready.

No I’ve never been afraid to cry,
Now I finally have a reason why…
No I’ve never been afraid to cry,
Now I finally have a reason why…

It strikes me as I write this – a rather late realization – that ‘I’ll Remember’ was really the end of my supposed-straight life, and the very last remnants of my childhood. Try as I might, it was a losing battle, and that girl would prove to be the very last girl I ever kissed. We would have one more summer together, and then it would be the boys’ turn to break my heart.

Song #27: ‘I’ll Remember’– Spring 1994
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