Friday, June 12, 2015

The mix tapes

I have trouble letting go. This is a fact, not a dramatization.

Recently I read a great book about decluttering, called The Joy of Less by Francine Jay. It talks about why it is important to live with less, how it helps not only our personal stress level but also the planet at large. And of course I was gung-ho to revisit my year(s) old goal of getting rid of the crap in our house. You see, we used to move. All the time. Every year or so. And with each move came the question, "Do I really need X? Is it worth lugging across the country and back? Will it even FIT in our next place?" It was a helpful and healthy way to routinely examine what we had and to purge what we no longer needed. There were always exceptions to the rule, like the fact that I moved several boxes of books from place to place, books I had read and never planned to read again, books I got at a used bookstore and thought sounded great but merely sat on the shelf, books I inherited from my grandmother and couldn't bear to give up... you get the idea. Oh, and the boxes and boxes of teaching stuff, which I only recently decided to donate after years of collecting dust in our basement. Nevertheless, it was, for all intents and purposes, a good way to keep our stuff in check. Then we moved here. To this house that is bigger than we truly need, with an amazingly huge basement full of nooks and crannies for storage. Oh, and we had two kids. Who added to our crap exponentially.

Fast forward seven years. I have tried to declutter the house; the last time I was inspired by a magazine article and got nearly through every room. But, as per usual, I gave up before it was finished. As my husband told me once when I was trying to come up with a six word memoir to describe myself: HAS BIG IDEAS, NO FOLLOW THROUGH. Yep, that's me. This time I was inspired by Jay's book and promised I would actually do it. Follow through. Complete the task. I made myself a six week schedule that allowed for missed days and proudly displayed in on the refridgerator. Did great the first week. Carted a bunch of stuff down to our church for their annual rummage sale. Week two? Not so much. Week three? It's Friday and I have very few proud X's on the calendar. It is the week I am due to take all of the stuff out of our den and make room for the boys to have a study/computer space. The plan was to move P into the back bedroom, me into his old room in a space entirely devoted to writing (with a futon for the rare guest) and use the downstairs den for the boys. Not for the upteen piles of papers, books, and general clutter that currently occupies the space.

But I digress (sorry, I do that a lot.) This post was intended to be about mix tapes. Yes, mix tapes. During week one I went through the cupboards in our family room and came across the boxes of tapes that I have henceforth been unable to part with, tapes that hold an unbelievable amount of memories and can still be enjoyed in the tape player of my van. Yes, my van has a tape player - how completely awesome is that? So, I set off to listen to each tape one last time and then toss it in the trash. Don't worry, I still plan to keep the notebook that outlines the songs on each tape (plus the songs from each tape I ever made for anyone else - I was the queen of mixes back in the day).

Listening to the tapes has brought all sorts of emotions to the surface. I remember loving the songs, remember sitting at my boom box and cuing up each one, the whirring sound evident on my earlier tapes (before I figured out how to avoid it). I remember playing each tape for the first time, marveling at my mixing abilities. The transitions, the mood each mix created, the clever covers made from cut up magazines. It is painful to think that these tapes will no longer be part of my life, but it is time to move on. As part of my "big idea" I plan to recreate each mix on my iPod, but I doubt that will ever happen. Currently there are several tapes in my car, some listened to, some in the cue. But so far none have made it into the trash. Despite the fact that the sound quality is terrible and some of the songs are barely audible, they are still such a huge part of my history. Throwing them out feels like tossing out an entire decade. Friendships I had - people I held close and vowed to never let go of, but who have been reduced to the occasional Facebook like. Moments of self-love and self-hate that ricocheted back and forth like a tennis ball. My complete obsession with songs like The The's "Slow Emotion Replay" and Gin Blossom's "Hey Jealousy", with artists like Morrissey, The Judybats, and Nine Inch Nails. The tapes were how I expressed myself.  Sometimes as an adult, I feel listless, without purpose and passion, Each day spent doing the same thing: meals, laundry, homework. I miss the creative requirements of picking just the right song, of blending genres in a way that made you think, of telling a story with music.

One of my Twitter friends turned me on to 8tracks, a website that is like mix tapes for the modern world. But it's not quite the same. The feel of the tape in your hands, pushing play and letting yourself get lost in the ride. The van is stow and go; perhaps I can hide a few tapes in there and bust them out when I'm feeling particularly nostalgic. And who knows, maybe someday I actually will recreate some of the best mixes. People can change, right? Right?


Erin Leah McCrea said...

If I had the tape deck in my car, I'd never get rid of the mix tapes! Great memories!

Sandi said...

Yeah, I have a feeling a few of my faves will survive the cut!