Break in the Tape

My husband is currently converting a mountain of reel-to-reel to digital storage. We need to downsize and this is taking up some space. Plus, the longer the tape lays around in cans, the more it will decline in quality. It will never be any better than now.


If you’ve never seen a reel-to-reel deck, it seems impressive upon first inspection. Lighted needle displays. Shiny buttons. Smooth, metallic housing. The kind of inviting build that makes you want to press all the things. “What does this do??” The kind of electronic device that makes you feel like a kid again. Especially when you try to use the damn thing–clueless. Only the most experienced reel-to-reel user would know or remember how to utilize the hunk.

Even at my mock and scoff, it is an impressive piece of equipment. For anyone born after 1980, you may not have ever seen one. It is the high-end equivalent of a simple cassette tape recorder. It records sound on spools (reels) of tape. Our machine looks very similar to this.

akai_630DB_11

Anyone can record sound with their phone or computer these days, so I understand its head-scratching obscurity. But I also see the appeal.

As my husband has started the long-procrastinated task of converting every piece of tape to virtually indestructible and mostly-permanent digital storage (somewhere in the cloud and probably 1 or 2 physical flash drives), the voices emerge from the past. Voices, songs, jokes and skits from 50 years ago. 50 years. From before my husband’s birth.

My husband lost both of his parents as a young toddler. First, his mother passed from unexplained natural causes at the age of 19. Then, his father passed from a terrible accident just a short time later. He never knew them. Never formed a memory of them. Never got to love them. He was raised by his paternal grandparents.

I asked my husband, just a few days ago, “Have you ever heard your mother’s voice?”

He hadn’t. Then among the first tapes he started listening to, he heard Dianne’s voice for the first time. He’s 48 years old. That’s impressive. Wondrous that a machine can save and give a priceless gift 50 years later.

Even with that precious holiday surprise, the process of converting all the tape can be frustrating. For him. For me.

The tape is old, fragile, spliced together in spots. The breaks in tape keep coming unglued, as we all do after the holidays. LOL The old adhesive has lost its sticky and under the mild stress of being played again, the tape snaps apart at each splice. Sigh.

Guy has to stop what he’s doing. Retape the splice with good, ol’ Scotch tape (don’t do this if you are saving your tapes and not getting rid of them after converting, regular ol’ clear tape is not a good, permanent fix) and restart the recording. Or hope that he can fix the glitch in editing later. Frustrating. Mildly. But his negativity was starting to spill out the other day in groans and grumbles. I mentioned it to him because it was starting to spill all over me.

I could feel the bad juju starting to grip my humor. I couldn’t brush aside his growing irritation any more. Walk out of the room. Close the door. Ignore his fumblings. It was right under my fingernails and I couldn’t flick it out.

“Hon, let’s talk.”

Sigh.

My husband never likes to talk about his feelings. As an introvert of the highest order, he finds the need to talk about feelings the most irritating conversation in which a person could be involved.

“Why?? Let’s not. It’s fine. I’ll stop.”

And then, with just slight coaxing from me, we talked. I’m glad we did. So is he. No really.

We talked about his frustration. Where’s it bubbling up from? He knew going in, the tape was old, it’s going to have problems. He was ready for anything. Until every little thing happened.

In talking, we both realized, the tape is life. Little hiccups along the way put stress on us. The tape of our memories has splices or breaks. All the memories we ever form are a playback for when we experience similar hardship. Something significant enough to make a memory. A manual for what to do when you encounter the same bullshit on a different day. Our minds rewind the tape.

When you play through some tragedy again, the tape can break. Snap. Frustration is right at the top of now and we break. We go flipping off the reel. Fwip, fwip, fwip. Until someone finds our broken mess, untangles us. Tapes us back together.

I’m glad to be your tape, Guy. I’m glad to find you flipping out and piece you back together. Especially when you can’t simply push play. Thank you for letting me help you get back on track. The tape of our time together is definitely a #1 hit.


I’m proud of you for finally saving these memories. It’s important. I’m glad I get to listen.

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