This is a bit of a throwback from 2013. Back then, each year, the town we lived in would have a “town-wide yard sale.” It was prime hunting grounds for scavengers looking for broken jewelry and old records to buy cheap and turn around for a few bucks.
My mother, well, just read the story. She was always ready to say yes to the, “do you have any old records to sell,” question. And I was always up early to be there and butt in with a firm, “NO.”
No, The Records Are Not For Sale
It’s time for the town-wide yard sale again. Which means it’s time for the bombardment of men hopping out of vans only to ask if we have broken jewelry, sports cards, or old records. Every year, at every yard sale, this happens. “We have boxes of records,” my mother in her 70’s always says. And I rush to the rescue before she sells off our family heirlooms to some skuzzy-looking dude that won’t pay her a fraction of what they’re worth. I protest, not just because he wants to rip off an old lady but also about the worth those records hold in my heart.
These boxes of records, which my mother is so eager to let go of, are not only full of her old records. Inside the dusty containers are her Italian father’s records. There’s even a box full of my father’s German aunts’ old albums. The collection isn’t just of music. It’s of the lives they lived and the times they lived in. They hold everything from my great aunts’ German operas, to grandpa’s Sinatra, to mom’s “West Side Story” and Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Every record is a time capsule. The music of our youth holds a diary of our lives that goes far beyond what the radios played. Attached to every song are the hopes we had, the first boy we kissed, the friend that died too young, the first trip to the opera in the city, and so much more.
It’s not just the songs either. I could find just about every song in those dusty boxes somewhere on YouTube and listen to them. It wouldn’t be the same though. It’s not like a record. My great aunts and grandfather passed away years before the internet was even a word we imagined we’d hear. They didn’t go online for their music.
They slid black discs out of cardboard and paper sleeves, held them in their hands, let their fingers gently place them on the record player, and carefully placed the needle down letting sound flow out into their living rooms. Music swept into the kitchen and drifted out the windows into the alleys and the city streets. My lost relatives touched these things with their flesh and the sound that resulted touched their hearts. The music sprung memories into their heads, stirred thoughts, and momentarily made them forget about the struggles, the wars they lived through, and everything that troubled their hard-fought lives.
“No, the records aren’t for sale,” I’m keeping them. I have to insist on this to every scavenger looking to turn a quick buck off the history of my family kept in the records in the attic. My mother always frowns. She was looking for a few dollars and won’t be getting them now because I won’t let her sell the records.
With another town-wide yard sale coming this weekend, I decide it’s time to explain to my mother why I won’t let her sell them. I tell her that someday I will get myself a record player again and I will slide every black vinyl from its worn-out sleeve and listen to every song my great aunts, grandfather, and she had listened to in the years before I was even born. I will remember my aunts’ faces, the stories they told of traveling the world as just a teacher and nurse, of their German heritage and I will see their living room full of treasures that they gathered in their travels. I’ll be transported back to my mother’s house in Bayonne. I’ll remember grandpa sitting in the dining room and I’ll recall the story of how my mother shocked him as he came home one day to hear the sounds of “West Side Story” gusting out the windows into the alleyway. I will touch what they touched. I will hear what they heard. I will go back to where they were. I will be with them again.
No, the records are not for sale.
…And in 2022, they’re still not for sale.