In today's culture we always hear that there is too much waste going into our landfills, and little we care to keep for very long. Music changes every minute. Fashion, whether affordable or not, keeps changing as is the custom. Movies might keep telling the same stories, but for many the only thing that matters is opening weekend box office, whether that is a film we must face immediately.
Today I found myself manually rewinding a cassette tape to the beginning of side A. I actually had the cap of a pen in between the spokes, and was turning the wheel round and round. Why? The recording was of my Romanian great grandmother Tiny, recorded in February 1980, when she was 89 years old. She lived only another four years.
One month after this recording I had gone alone to visit my mother's mother's mother during spring break. Realizing that although she was still very much present and mentally acute, my four-foot eleven-inch matriarch was aging quickly. As I drove off from her apartment (she still lived alone), I was so vexed I might not see my beloved crone's smiling face ever again, I got on the freeway going in the wrong direction. Then, when lost downtown between Grand and Hope, I accidentally ran a red light and totaled my mother's car.
Listening today to this woman's wise humorous voice also stopped me in my tracks. I wasn't present when the family did the recording because I was away at Berkeley. I'd never listened to this tape. So I stuck it in the slot thrilled I could hear her voice, as well as her daughter's, and also the voice of my brother, all of whom are no longer with us. I'd listen for a while and the tape would shut off. I'd turn it over and listen to the tape going in the other direction. When it shut off again, I tried rewinding it and got a few more bits of conversation both ways.
She talked about how she met her husband with whom she gave birth to nine daughters. She remembered how the lilacs covered the streets in the town of her birth. She gossiped about the Royal Family and how the princess was really a prostitute. She had many opinions, all of which were defined and deep, on many issues still relevant today. And that's only what I heard for those few moments. But I didn't want to keep listening when I obviously needed to find someway to re-record it so her voice isn't lost to us forever.
I came across the tape as I was sorting through belongings for a Saturday group garage sale. I'd organized my own astrology readings over the years, but when I found my dead brother's penmanship with "Esther Golden Archive" written on the side of the tape, I had to take a listen.
Early last year I transferred tons of family video to DVD to keep for posterity. It took hours of my time but I enjoyed every minute of it. Today, while rewinding the tape, I contemplated my options. Even though I'm only familiar with tape recorders, I believe it is time to upgrade. I think I should purchase a digital recorder for the purposes of keeping these almost forgotten voices of ancestry alive. I doubt I'll be able to play the cassette tape more than once... and if it takes a few hours to get it done, it will be well worth the time to keep this feisty lady who has already been gone for a quarter of a century alive.
Some things are worth keeping, no matter the cost or the time and effort involved. Whose voice would you give anything to hear again?