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…