A few days ago I was taking a meal out with my best girl when the unmistakeable odor of smoke wafted from the kitchen. We made some joke about food burning, and it reminded me of a story from my youth. My parents didn’t have a huge record collection when we were kids, just one metal rack with maybe twenty or thirty records in it. There was a song I recall as being on a Percy Sledge record called “Something’s Burning,” that me and my two sisters used to sing while my mom was cooking dinner. The refrain was “Something’s burning, something’s burning, something’s burning . . . and I think it’s love….” only we would close it out as, “And I think it’s the foooooood….”
Here’s where the whims of memory tripped me up. Yes, my folks had a couple Percy Sledge records. There was some Gary Puckett and the Union Gap as well. Glen Campbell. I think they even had that Herb Alpert record with the famous cover. I don’t recall any Kenny Rogers, but when I went digging online for the song, this is what I found:
The more I listen to it, the more convinced I am that this is the very song. And the more I dig, the less convinced I am that my folks even owned any Percy Sledge records. If not, where the hell does that “memory” come from?
This is one of those things that makes me take a lot of memoir writing with a grain of salt. I consider myself to have a pretty good memory, yet here is proof that the brain makes stuff up, or confuses things, or whatever. How much of our adult identities are built on falsehoods that our minds have manipulated, or even conjured entirely, for us? I think it’s fascinating. So when some person puts out some book writing about events that happened ten, twenty, thirty or more years earlier (like, *cough* the bible *cough*), one must take it with a grain of salt. If it starts to smell like smoke, it’s likely that things aren’t all squared away in the kitchen. Hell, it may not even be intentional.
Finally, I don’t know how people even managed to cook in the days before smoke alarms. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the more I learn of history, the more I realize it’s a miracle anyone ever survived anything.