“Tape” is the stream of consciousness word today from Linda.
Years ago, Vivian’s husband, Larry, bought the latest video recording camera on the market and proceeded to make a complete pest of himself. On one of his taping excursions, he came upon Vivian as she prepared to tape a tapestry to the wood-grained paneling wall to use as a temporary background for the Christmas card family picture they were going to take later that afternoon.
Larry suggested, “The tapestry has a better chance of staying up if you’d use nails.”
“I don’t want nail holes willy-nilly in the wall, thank you very much,” Vivian replied.
That was just one of many video-taping moments that filled countless video cassettes. When video cassette tapes were full, they were stored in special ‘memory boxes’. It happened that this particular video tape was put in with a collection of cassette and 8-track tapes, where it remained sandwiched between boxes labeled Halloween costumes and Great Grandmother Hampton’s Christmas Decorations on a shelf in the attic.
The video tape languished in obscurity for decades, patiently waiting like the One Ring to be picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable—an eleven-year-old girl who was looking for the Hobbit costume her dad had worn when he was her age. In her searching, she dumped a box labeled Cassettes & Etc Tapes. She gathered up the tapes and took them to the kitchen.
“Grandma Viv, what are these?”
“Oh…Cindy.” Grandma Viv rummaged through the menagerie of tapes. “I’d forgotten these even existed.”
With nostalgia blurring her vision and many wistful sighs, Grandma Viv wandered back hrough the 60s, 70s, and 80s of her life as she read the labels on each tape. She explained they were the equivalent of the CDs Cindy was familiar with. She also described the players required to play the tapes as she gazed upon them in reverent memory of her younger days.
Surfin’ USA. Deep Purple. Herman’s Hermits. Scorpions. Fleetwood Mac. Barracuda and Magic Man. The Monkees. Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads. Hotel California. The White Album. The Doors. Maggie May. Dean Martin’s Greatest Hits. Grateful Dead. Whitesnake. George Jones and Tammy Wynette…
Each of these musical memories punctuated moments of her life. Where had the time gone?
“What’s this one?” Cindy took out a tape that was different from from the others.
Grandma Viv looked the video cassette tape over. Neither the tape nor the cardboard sleeve had a date or any jotted notes to tell what was recorded on it. It apparently wasn’t a blank tape, though, because the recording ribbon wasn’t fully rewound. She pointed this out to Cindy.
“Let’s take this to the attic. I think we’ll be able to play it.”
Right where she thought it was, Grandma Viv found the old television set with the built-in VHS tape player on the far wall next to the plastic crate holding a stack of 78 RPM records. Cindy helped her carry it to an old flat-top traveling trunk that was close to an electrical outlet. They set the TV on top, and Grandma Viv pugged in the old relic. She inserted the video tape, rewound the ribbon, and then Cindy pressed the PLAY button.
All they saw for several seconds was the image of a bare, paneled wall with a roll of wide, silver tape and scissors on a TV tray and a short stepstool nearby. Grandma Viv had no recollection of this. Then a thirty-year-old rendition of herself came into view carrying what appeared to be a stiff and awkward-to-carry, heavy blanket. It still didn’t ring a bell. When she saw herself snipping several-inches-long pieces of tape and lining them up to dangle over an edge of the tray, Danger, Will Robinson! sounded in her 67-year-old memory, but she still couldn’t remember why.
A man’s voice on the video tape said, “The tapestry has a better chance of staying up if you’d use nails.”
With a put-on frowny-face and a quick stick-out-her-tongue gesture toward the camera, the younger Vivian replied, “I don’t want nail holes willy-nilly in the wall, thank you very much.”
In a flash of stark recollection, Grandma Viv remembered what was coming, and it wasn’t fit for eleven-year-old ears.
“Grandma! Is that you?” Cindy stepped closer to the TV screen. “O-M-G.”
“There’s nothing interesting to see.” Grandma Viv hit the STOP button on the video tape player so hard it popped off and skittered across the floor. The tape recording not only continued, but the volume increased. She reached around back to unplug the relic, but Cindy grasped her hand and pleaded.
“Don’t, Grandma. Don’t unplug it. Please.”
Grandma Viv watched with vivid dismay, remembering how she felt as the pieces of the wide tape she’d worked so hard to get to stick to tapestry and wall weren’t strong enough to hold the tapestry’s weight. The tapestry came billowing down like an open parachute over her head and shoulders.
That wasn’t what made her cringe.
With crystal-tape-recorded-clarity, Grandma Viv heard herself spewing the kind of words that not only make a sailor proud, but also turn the air blue. What made it even worse was the man’s recorded raucous laughter.
“Grandma! You look like a folded up patio umbrella.” Through fits of delighted laughter, Cindy managed to squeak out, “I didn’t know you could cuss. You’re better than Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation.”
“And did you notice she didn’t repeat a single word? I always did admire her colorful vocabulary.”
Grandpa Larry, standing on the attic ladder halfway up and halfway down with his crossed arms resting on the attic floor, laughed right along with Cindy, much to Grandma Viv’s complete chagrin.
Until next time,
writing through history one romance upon a time
*Camcorder Image: Sony Betamovie BMC-100P camcorder (Retouched version of image) David162se, CC BY-SA 4.0