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tapes of treasure

Still in bed, today with a head like a bag of thistles. The cold I’ve been fighting arrived and planted itself inside my head. I worship at the altar of the great god Benadryl.

Last evening found me sitting beside my music machine, sobbing aloud. I’d put on the recently-acquired CD’s of the old family tapes, actually listened all the way through, and discovered there’s far more there than I’d realized. What made me cry was, first, my realization that, on the first CD, the annoying fooling around that goes on and on by some Americans I don’t know – reading poetry, saying and singing funny things in weird accents – was in fact a group of my father’s best friends in New York, sending him a tape to cheer him up while he recovered from polio in 1951. “This is for you, Gordie, and you too Sylvia and little Beth. You’d better not get sick any more, Gordin,” says one. “Speedy recovery.”
Another treasure: my second birthday party, in Halifax in August, 1952, my father healthy, my mother buzzing around with presents – “Ooo look, a lovely dolly!” she says, and I say, “Dolly,” and much else, in a firm voice. Also there are Berna and Unkie, our landlords who lived downstairs. I became their surrogate grandchild, and they became for me a forcefield of love that I feel to this day. Listening, I thought, “No wonder I became an actress – to replicate the pleasure of four big people focussing on me, applauding my every word and move.” Halcyon days for the first-born.
A fake, funny interview my mother did with “the famous ballerina Beth Kaplan” in 1960 when I was ten. I tell her, “Ballet dancing is not permanent, it’s temporary until I can gather enough money – $5000 – to start a publishing company. I am hoping to be a writer, to start a good business in writing and publishing my own books for a good price. I’ll call it the Sylvia’s Publishing Company. As a ballerina I’ll go to Czechoslovakia and Poland and then I’ll be in England, studying English and writing.”
She seems quite focussed on making money, that girl. Wonder what happened with that.
Also in 1960, a speech my dad made in Vancouver about the deadly effects of nuclear radiation and what the reality of nuclear war would mean. He was far ahead of his time, speaking with humour, authority and passion about ecological damage, making fun of politicians who were advising citizens to build fallout shelters. Hearing his eloquent speech, often interrupted for applause, made me very proud. As I listened to his hour-long talk, I was sorting out a jumbled box of our old family slides, which I’ll have made into a DVD or whatever they do with slides nowadays. That’s 3 old boxes of memories dealt with, these past weeks. I’m building a solid portrait of our past. My past. Treasure.
If you have boxes like these in your basement, why don’t you get them out now, before it’s too late?
Today I give thanks, as I snuffle in bed with snow swirling outside the window, that I’m no longer an actress. I don’t have to get up and do a show. I’ll teach a class tonight with no problem, and in the meantime, I’ll eat the Daniel and Daniel butternut squash soup I picked up on my way home from the Y yesterday. Yes, I went to Carol’s class though I didn’t do much – but you know, it was Wednesday, I had no choice.

And I give thanks that you are out there, reading. You may not be my parents and Berna and Unkie, delighting in everything I say, but for me, you’re close.

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3 Responses to “tapes of treasure”

  1. theresa says:

    I think you're in good hands with anything from Daniel and Daniel. I love their truffles and sandwiches and, oh, just about anything. And some sweetly nostalgia in January — I'm looking at family photographs… — is not a bad thing to anchor us in our past, our families, the intricate mystery of dna…
    tk

  2. theresa says:

    I meant "sweetly sad" but my typing is a bit chaotic…

  3. beth says:

    My dad the biologist would have enjoyed "the intricate mystery of dna," Theresa. And I agree, January is a very good time to take stock, delve into the past, figure out who we are and where we're going. Mind you, July is not a bad time either, or November…

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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