October 1985. My sweet 16 birthday. It was sweet alrighty.
My mom gave me an all-in-one dual cassette, turntable, and AM/FM radio player. Gone would be the days of putting my single-used portable cassette player in front of my mom’s large radio system trying to perfectly capture the latest greatest hit by Springsteen, the Eurythmics, or Wham!. And then going back to my room to transfer over a song from a record album to be the next tune on the mixed tape. Then back downstairs, and the cycle would continue. I was in “Heaven” – Bryan Adam’s #24 Billboard hit for 1985 by the way.
Fast forward to August 1988. Heading off to university, I left behind that same piece of stereo equipment with my mom. She had started to use it herself to copy cassettes she liked of friends, and play her Doris Day, Tony Bennett, and Slim Whitman records. I was off to bigger, better things – buying myself a Walkman as soon as I got a job. We were both in heaven.
Fast forward again to May 2011. My kids and I had traveled up to where my mom had lived before she died a few months earlier for the internment of her ashes. It was a “Family Affair” and many friends of my mom were there as well to join in the backyard holler (my mom’s name for a BBQ party) we held to celebrate her life.
My step-dad, bless his heart, had already sorted through the things my mom left him notes on for what she wanted passed on to her loved ones. He set up little tents of sorts and displayed everything for us on tables, kinda like how a garage sale setup might look. Some tables were also unassigned items that he thought we might want to go through.
He took my hand and guided me into one of the tents, taking me right to a particular table. On that table was the very same stereo system my mom had given me for that very special 16th birthday. I hadn’t even known she still had it. And didn’t just have it, it still worked. The tears started streaming down my cheeks as I gazed at this piece of history of my life that was being given back to me. It may not have been another birthday of mine, but once again, my mom surprised me with a very special gift.
That all-in-one is now in my living room. Beside it is a brass vinyl holder I scored for $2 at a garage sale that holds a wide variety of records collected by myself and my kids. We celebrate Record Store Day every April and scour milk crates at thrift stores to find the next treasure. The albums get played regularly and there is no finer sound than when the needle hits the vinyl. There is no finer sight than to see my own children enjoying the gift of music. There are no finer memories than those of making my mixed tapes in the 80’s.
In response to today’s Daily Prompt, if you had asked me 4 years ago what technology I missed, I likely would have answered that all-in-one stereo. Today, I choose not to grieve that which is now considered extinct or obsolete. Rather, I choose to celebrate the gifts I received in my past, the gifts I am sure are yet to come, but most importantly the gift I always have at my beck and call: the present.
Photo source: me