"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Making Digital Memories

When I was three, and my brother two, my father’s job uprooted our little family of four from Slidell, Louisiana and planted us in a town called Ekali in Greece.  Such a drastic change seemed completely reasonable to my parents seeing as how we were so young and not in school yet.  We learned to swim there with swimming lessons, we learned from our neighbors how to choose the juciest snails for escargot, and we learned how to slide down the back of Mom’s VW beetle when it was covered in a layer of frost or snow (watch out for the license plate!).  One thing that we missed horribly (and the feeling was reciprocal) was the family.  My mom’s parents and brother were back in Texas and seeing as how we were more than a 10 hour drive away, we didn’t get to see them as much.

Being an ocean apart did not keep them from thinking of us, though.  My grandmother was always the creative one and used to record cassette tapes for us so we could play her back any time we needed to hear her voice.  She wouldn’t just record her own voice, though.  She would record sounds, like Texas thunderstorms in late summer, or the sound of the locusts singing at night.  She would explain about the 17 year life cycle of the locust, and then point out the sound of the wind chimes and the neighbor’s dog barking.  Then she would go around and record random sounds from her house making a game of “guess that sound.”  Things like her dishwasher, or the shower, or her doorbell.  One particular tape was sent in honor of my brother’s fourth birthday.  With it came a book, and on the tape was my step grandfather reading the story.  Additionally, they took the tape recorder to church so everyone could send happy birthday wishes to my brother.  So now we have the voices of my Aunt and Uncle, and childhood voices my three cousins immortalized on that tape.  The one birthday greeting that really floored me (and nearly caused me to pull my car over to have my cry) was from my second cousin, Tiffany.  She was the same age as my brother, four that year (that month, too).  In May 2000 she had been a guest at our wedding.  By 2002, she was gone.  She had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma and it was just too late.  She left behind a 5 year old daughter (and father and brother and mother and cousins and so many people who loved her so much).  And here she was on this tape wishing my brother a happy birthday in her little four-year-old voice.  My grandmother has also since passed, and that makes the cassette tape absolutely invaluable on so many levels.

In the digital age there aren’t that many people out there recording cassette tapes.  Books on tape can still be found but probably don’t sell as well as books on CD or maybe even books on podcast.  But how much fun would it be, if you were four, to get your very own CD along with your book, with someone you loved reading you the story?  What about a game of “guess that sound” on track 2?  Maybe track 3 could be friends singing you a favorite song.  As we zoom through our busy lives, we snap photos and capture short videos, but we forget to immortalize the every day sounds.  Have you recorded anything for posterity?  Do you think your children would enjoy listening to a CD with stories on it read by loved ones?  Sounds like just the thing for a car trip or plane ride…


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

What a wonderful story. I too have a tape made in my childhood that has my and my brother's voices along with those of our dear friends. My husband was far away for many months last year and made a story tape for our son before he left. That was the single most important bedtime ritual - listening to Daddy's voice. Even if it was the same series of stories over, and over, and over again every night. I highly recommend this if you can find the time.

I inadvertently ended up capturing a moment for the ages - inadvertently in that while I meant to record it, it took on a poignance & significance that I had never intended or foreseen.

My wonderful sister, who was 2 years younger than me, died suddenly of meningitis when she was 21. When she was 19, she and I "co-hosted" my very last radio program at the university I was graduating from (I was a dj at the campus radio station for a few years). It was my farewell show, and it was Senior Week, so frivolity was the order of the day; and we were always spazzing out when we got together anyway. So the show was quite the testament to our way of playing. In-between the usual college radio playlist songs, we played marching band tunes, Jamaican steel drum numbers, blew noisemakers into the mics, did our best imitations of old relatives...

I suspect I am really, really old in comparison to many of the posters here; that radio show was a looong time ago (the station's music collection was still all vinyl, y'all). I've had to dub the tape of the show onto CD in order to continue preserving it. But as long as the technology exists, I will make sure that moment in time remains captured.

My young daughter will never know her beloved Aunt Sue. But what a gift this show tape (now CD) is for her. It will give her a vivid glimpse of the irrepressible person her aunt was. And it is a gift for me, because it captures the essence of our relationship together.

when i was in grad school (linguistics) and kate was a little munchkin, just learning to talk, she was, inevitably, the subject of many of my peers' research projects in language acquisition. i also started a discourse analysis project with her and recorded her on a handheld voice recorder.

from that project on, i brought out the recorder many random times when she wasn't aware. i recorded hours of her first words and sounds...and have continued doing the same for mina and ewan.

they LOVE listening to their own voices and sounds, and i do too. my parents did the same thing for my brother and me. it brings back a sense of nostalgia....

but with my kids i have to explain what the hell a cassette is ;)

Our family too, used cassettes to send "letters" to one another when I and my parents lived in Hawaii, while my much older brothers went to college in Oregon. They are such treasures to still have.
I would absolutely love to get my parents on cd, reading stories to my son (and upcoming child). Does anyone know of any software that enables this? I am not super tech savvy, so no clue...would love any suggestions.

I'm struggling with two things technologically around all these potential digital memories. 1) how to convert my cassette(s) to CD/mp3 and 2) how to record sounds. I am just now searching Amazon for "ipod microphone" and coming up with several potential solutions there. As for the cassettes, I think I just need to check my computer's sound card for a line in and see if I can't play my tape and capture the sound on the computer. Then I can save/play it in several different ways...

Shetha, Dave has hooked up his cassette tape player to the computer and has transferred tape to digital sound. He's done the same with VHS footage and transferred it to DVD. You're right; it's pretty easy (feel free to ask Dave more).

In some ways, I am very much in the digital age. In other ways, I am not. I haven't really come up with great ways to document the girls growing up. The most I manage to do is to upload photos for most everything imaginable to http://www.snapfish.com which we've been doing since the day Philly was born in 2000. It's fun to go to our snapfish account and see years and years of archived photos. The newest nice feature is that you can send prints to be picked up in a hour to local drug stores or supermarkets. It's instant gratification.

The other thing I am good about in terms of storing memories is journaling. I keep a journal for each daughter, and write memorable entries every few months or so. I sometimes will also solicit entries from family members. As I read back on the journals, it makes me smile to be able to read along as the girls grow. I will try my hardest to continue with the journals, even though they aren't digital or in electronic format. One day we'll scan them and OCR or PDF them....

The comments to this entry are closed.