Consistent with my
compulsive disorder to gather and preserve anything of yesteryear, I am
embarked on a project to digitize and thus preserve any old cassette tapes of
my past. I’m afraid that my last
functioning cassette tape player as well as the tapes themselves are getting
old like me. So I can’t pass up the chance to open the shutters of the years
and wipe off the clouded window to the past.
Not counting my many Spanish
speaking audio tutors, my collection of old audio cassette tapes amounts to a
box with a little bit of everything.
Starting with over 50 in all, I didn’t see value in the few “store
bought” tapes of music that I still had lying around and I was soon looking at
maybe 2 dozen tapes. If I really valued
the music of the 70’s I could get much better copies from modern sources. So now I was reading the titles of talk tapes
that I had held onto over the years. Assuming that I wouldn’t be able to
replace these little snippets of history, I set them aside to be transferred to
an MP3 format so I could re-listen to them while out biking or jogging.
Now what remained were about
a 6 more unmarked, unknown cassette tapes. I spot checked what might be on the
first few tapes. “Well, this side had
nothing… And the other side is blank also.”
So deciding that it was just a left over blank tape from an earlier era
recording project, I tossed in into the trash with the old bad recordings of
The next tape had a date
“Oct 26, 1970” penned on the side along with the title “Family Night”. I had tried to listen to this tape once
before. The quality was so poor that I
couldn’t understand what was said. I
wondered if I could some how filter out the noise, and eaves drop on my
childhood past. I put the tape in and
plugged in my best earphones. I turned
the volume loud as I tried to adjust out the noise with the treble/bass
controls. The words never came clearly
enough to understand, yet I did understand.
We were singing my Dad’s favorite hymn, “Love at Home”. Then the tone and spirit of a prayer was
unmistakable. Yes, these were the family
night gatherings of my childhood.
The next unmarked tape
seemed to be another blank. I flipped it
over to double check the B side before tossing it into the trash can. Loud and clear, my oldest son, Joshua’s 11
year old voice came booming through.
This one was a study tape he had made when we lived in Draper, Utah and he had an egg
gathering job after school. I played the
tape for all grown up Joshua and he smiled with a look of recognition in his
eyes. He explained that early in the
morning, he would get up and make these study tapes of all his school work so
when he was out and about, especially at work gathering eggs, he could re-play
and thus multitask his studies into his other activates.
There were other tapes
(treasures for me to preserve) of my past. And I documented what was on each
one as now I carefully listened all the way through both sides of each
tape. I was frequently pleased with a
little snippet of my life’s past hidden between the many minutes of blank audio
Just before I called the
review and inventory phase of the project complete and prior to moving on to
the task of transferring what I valued into the my computer’s audio files, I
wondered once again about the first “blank” tape I had tossed into the trash
can hours earlier. Digging it out from
the pile of trashed tapes, I put the unmarked tape back into the player and hit
play. I then busied myself with other
things while the blank tape rolled through the player. When the tape came to the end, I flipped it
over and started it again.
Through the 60 cycle hum
typical of a poor recording of that era, I heard the newly married voices of My
Beautiful Wife and myself. Soon I had my
best headphones on as the volume turned up so I could hear the words
spoken. Immediately, I spun back in
time. No Hollywood
style time machine was ever as dramatic.
Instantly, I was a fly on
the wall (one of many flies on our old egg farm that I grew up on). I still lived on this farm in my early
married life. This was in our 12X55
brown and white mobile home, late in the summer of 1983. My Beautiful Wife and
I had just made our second big purchase together (a new car had been the first). It was a used spinet piano that we paid $900
for. Vallerie was seated on the piano
bench in front of the black and white keys. On the piano’s music holder, her
purple and green song book was spread open to a song she had learned before.
She was now testing her musical talents on the new piano.
As a fly on the wall, I
watched as the young married “me” was still setting up the little microphone at
the back of the piano. Before the final
set-up, I … I mean “he” put the microphone up to his lips and started chanting,
“Vallerie is Beautiful, Vallerie is Beautiful.”
I then got a little… I mean “he” then got a little R-rated with his
expressions of admiration for this love of my life.
My old self, “The fly on the
Wall”, cringed a little at the words coming out of this young man’s enamored
mouth. That had been the only time in
our 27 years of life together that little ears wouldn’t be listening and thus
guarding my bedroom talk casually around the house.
Now My Beautiful Wife played
the song all the way through, stopping and restarting several times through the
problem areas. At the end she sighed,
and said, “Boy I play so lousy… It’s embarrassing!”
Now I… I mean he, the young
married me, kissed that Beautiful Woman as he prepared to go back out on the
farm to finish up the day’s work. My
Beautiful Wife said, “Bye Sweet Heart.”
I was … I mean “He” was again a little bit R-rated in how he completed
his good-bye before walking out the door for the last hour of work. Before he actually left, there was one more
Beautiful Wife – “What time
is it? Will you be in at 6 for dinner?”
The Young Married me – “YES”
Beautiful Wife – “I’m going
to start in 15 minutes”
The Young Married me – “What
did you do with that egg carton” (it had small parts from a repair project in
Beautiful Wife – “It’s up on
The Young Married me –
“Hoped you didn’t throw it away.”
Beautiful Wife – “Nope!”
He then picked up the grease
stained egg carton and walked back out to work.
Within a moment, the Beautiful Wife went back to her piano playing. She played song after song. Stopping
frequently at the trouble spots. Several
times she sighed in frustration at her struggles.
As a fly on the wall, I just
sat there and watched her play. I had
forgotten how much I loved listening to her play the piano. At the end of her 15 minutes, she was true to
her word and stood up clicked the recorder off and went into the kitchen to
start dinner as I was sucked back through the time tunnel to the present.
This time travel experience
happened to me over a week ago, but I can’t get it out of my head. I can still hear, see, feel, and experience
her emotions as she played for me 26 years ago.
I love great music and talented pianists. But no one will ever hold a
candle to what it does for me when My Beautiful Wife plays the piano. Even with the threat of being embarrassed by
hearing my R-rated expressions these many years later, this one 17 ½ minute
audio recording is a treasured possession.
It takes me back to a time before My Beautiful Wife could see all my
faults and weaknesses. To a time and
place when I really believed I could make all her dreams come true.