Was it a little red wagon or maybe a brand new bicycle? Perhaps it was an Easy Bake Oven or a b-b gun.
Can you remember that one birthday present, the end all of all end all presents? It was the one gift that was the crowning moment of the entire year.
Christmas no longer mattered. You had it. You clutched it in your arms vowing never to let go. The gift you had begged and pleaded for, the gift that caught your eye every time you walked past it, and spotted it in the display window. The gift that made your insides hurt you wanted it so bad.
The first bicycle is always a memorable moment. For my brothers and sister, bicycle’s only arrived under a Christmas tree. Too lofty a gift for a parent to waste on a birthday.
Maybe it was a black light poster or a groovy lava lamp. Maybe it was a stereo, or a new television for your room. If you were hanging with the Trump’s maybe it was a shiny new car.
I doubt it was a cassette tape recorder.
That magical tape recorder could do things, and took me places like no other gift. I think I was eleven-years-old. I remember that big silver and black recorder was the neatest thing ever created.
I lifted the plastic lid and inserted the cassette tape and raced over to the old Zenith radio I had in my room. I placed the recorder in front of the speaker and turned the radio on. I spun the radio dial and found a rock-n-roll station – KLOL in Houston – and waited for the next song. I had the play and record buttons pushed along with the pause button. All I had to do was wait for the next song.
My finger tapped the pause button in anticipation. The d-jay came out of the commercial break, said a few words, and wham. The big moment! I released the pause button and watched the two little wheels begin to spin as the tape circled and recorded the song. I had never heard this song before. My joy quickly turned to confusion. What is this music? It was scary. It was violent. It was…really good.
I played that song over and over. Rewind. Play. Rewind. Play.
The more I listened to it a new world began to unfold. It was dark and seductive. The pounding beats and guitar were spooky, but my feet seemed to like it as they tapped the ground trying to keep rhythm. Somewhere in the song the lead singer’s voice would echo before he actually sang the next line. Creepy stuff. The magical powers of this music placed me in a trance. I was mesmerized. I watched the little wheels continue to spin out this mysterious music.
It was the greatest birthday gift ever. I ended up filling both sides of that cassette tape with songs from the radio. Me and that tape recorder had many enjoyable times together. I can still hear Curt Gowdy’s play-by-play call when Johnny Bench homered in the 1973 All-Star game. I stayed up late on a Saturday night in September to record the University of Oklahoma vs. USC game in California. It was a night game. The difference in time zones presented problems. I hit record and fell asleep. Of course, I only got one side of the tape recorded.
On a side note, my prized possession rode in the car with me one Sunday morning on our way to church. Sometime between the kneeling, the standing, and the sitting, some jackass broke into my father’s white Chevy Impala company car and stole my little cassette recorder. At church of all places!
Can you remember that one memorable gift from your childhood that stands out against all others? The one gift that brought so much joy you will always treasure that particular birthday? I would love to hear what it was…
Oh, the song that I recorded that day was “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, and every time I hear it played on the radio it takes me back to that birthday.