• Last modified 1004 days ago (Dec. 21, 2017)


Another Day in the Country

All I want for Christmas

© Another Day in the Country

I’m fairly certain that my grandson did not say, “All I want for Christmas is an old fashioned tape recorder,” but that’s what I got him.

Yes, I know it’s out-of-date and he really won’t know what to do with it; but me filling him in is part of the present.

Tape recorders played a huge role in my family. My dad, being a preacher, preached to a tape recorder long after he retired from actually being a minister to a congregation. People still wanted to hear what he had to say, so he would set up the microphone in his office and caution everyone in the house to be quiet, then turn on the tape recorder and preach to his invisible congregation.

I could never imagine why anyone would want to hear my father preach, although he was good at it. However, Dad had a long list of folk who enjoyed receiving his tapes every month.

Of course, Mom, who provided just the right song at the end of his discourse to clinch the message and encourage folk to repent, got in on the taping ministry, too. She sang her usual song at the end, and sometimes they sang duets, although my dad’s singing voice never matched her lovely alto tones.

Now how is my grandson going to hear this story about great-grandparents long gone if he doesn’t even know what a tape recorder looks like? I bought a simple one for him and started looking for the box of tapes from the olden days that I just could not throw away. There was quite a list of things I wanted him to hear.

There’s a tape of his mother at the age of four singing at a vespers program that I was putting on at the college where Jana’s father was the chaplain. You can tell there is a trend in this family.

I have tapes of his great-grandmother singing and I found a few choice tapes of a radio broadcast that I did in the 80s where part of the format was stories for kids. One whole show every year was dedicated to my reading “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” and I found that tape, too.

There are a whole box of tapes somewhere that once contained my favorite pop music. I only found a few of those. Surely I didn’t throw the others out in some cleaning frenzy?

I did find a whole album of “Prairie Home Companion,” stories from Lake Woebegon by Garrison Keillor. I’ve loved his stories and the sound of his monotonous voice for years. When I was going through hard times in my life, I recorded those stories off public radio because I couldn’t afford to buy his albums. I would listen to those nostalgic tales at night as I went to sleep. They were much better than taking sleeping pills.

I found a tape of the Christy Minstrels Christmas carols — my favorite — that I played over and over until my kids had all the lyrics memorized. Dagfinnr needs to hear these. Maybe he will like them, too. There’s still a chance because he’s only 10.

What’s a tape recorder without blank tapes to record stuff on? Amazingly, I found some of those, too. I wonder what we’ll attempt to record, or if I will be able to spark this child’s interest at all with something so outdated and simplistic? I imagine recording his voice and keeping the tape in a little case that I’m bringing to store all this stuff in.

Maybe we’ll do something silly on Christmas Eve, like record “The Night Before Christmas” for posterity. A decade or two from now, after his voice has changed and mine is gone, he’ll pick up that cassette tape and chuckle about the strange Christmas gift he received from his Baba when he was just a kid.

I have a video tape of our family acting out The Night Before Christmas but I don’t even have a VHS player to look at it — that’s the trouble with technology (and life). It just keeps on changing, faster and faster, with stuff outdated almost before the package is opened.

So this Christmas, I’m giving an already outdated present! You must admit that’s a new twist, on another day in the country.

Last modified Dec. 21, 2017