Monday, April 29, 2013

Tape Recorder

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.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a wonderful find! I'd love to have a recording of either of my grandmothers speaking.

And how did the garage sale go? I hope you made a good chunk of change.

Lori F - MN said...

I'm sure you can find someone or somewhere that you can get those recordings transferred to something more contemporary.

Anonymous said...

the contemporary media are ephemeral too.
the tape I have of my mother's voice is her answering machine recording. I kept it because I knew it was the only way I'd ever hear her again. It's on a mini-cassette and who knows how I would ever play it....

Vest said...

The last time I got slapped by a female was when asked "Do you like my dress? I bought it at a garage (yard) sale".
I replied,"I can see you did, you must be very poor".
Didn't need recording, easily remembered.

Vest said...

Use your departed relatives voice on tape at a seance, that would be real freaky. but only if you have a sense of humour.

Anonymous said...

why dont you answer comments or travel?