I'm sure you've noticed that the modern-day yard sale is chock-a-block with VHS tapes for movies you'd just love to own if you had
A. the space to store them
B. a device that plays VHS tapes easily
C. the time to watch movies
D. all of the above
For instance, I just had a yard sale, and I have an entire set of Shirley Temple movies that I inherited from my mother and just can't bear to put at the curb. When I say a set, I mean every doggone thing Shirley ever appeared in, including a collection of "Baby Burlesque." That little girl worked her butt off!
But this is beside the point.
Another item I have in abundance is audio cassette tapes. Oh, not "The Best of Dean Martin" or "Elton John's Greatest Hits." I have video cassette tapes my sister made in the 1970s ... of my grandparents talking.
My maternal grandmother had a memory that would rival any elephant's. I have a tape full 90 minutes long of her reciting poems and stories she learned as a young girl, back in the days before radio, out in the country where vaudeville never penetrated. Some of the songs on the tape are ancient ballads that came over on the wooden ships.
One problem: I didn't have an audio tape player.
Or so I thought.
Yard sales are marvelous things in that you root through the house looking for stuff to sell. In that process of rooting, I found a beautiful, wonderful audio cassette player that I didn't even know we had. I also found the big stack of photographs that went missing!
Back to the cassette player. Gifted with this relic of a bygone century, I snapped in the tape and started listening to Grandma saying her poems and singing her songs.
Ah, the abundant "r" sounds of the Appalachian accent! And the casual double negatives, the abundant use of "ain't," the additional syllable at the beginning of a phrase that has disappeared from our tongue. ("And when we went a-huntin', my father led the way.")
My daughter The Heir asked me to turn off the tape. She never met her great-grandmother, but Heir said she could hear my voice in the elderly Appalachian lady.
I pressed Heir: Was it the accent? No. What, then? The spirit.
My grandmother loved to recite poetry, she threw her whole joie de vivre into it. So do I.
Bardic grandmother, I salute you. Thank you for the gift of poetry and ancient song. May I be worthy of the gifts you have given.
And may the tape recorder never break down, because I don't have a clue how to transfer this aural wealth of history into the new media.