Mixed Tapes and Other Things My Kids Will Never Know

mix tapeBuried in a box in the cupboard, under notes and letters and other written breadcrumbs of our early relationship, is a mixed tape. I made it for my husband way back when. In those early butterfly days, I was striving to impress him more than anything else, but there is still a significance to each song, a metaphor in the Modigliani print I used as a front piece, telling clues in the A side/B side titles. Seventeen years later that mixed tape is still there: a tangible relationship artifact.

In the museum of our love, it would be in a little case with a spotlight.

It occurred to me recently that my kids will never know the stomach plummeting emotions that come when someone hands you a mixed tape. They will never sit on their beds listening to a tape made by a crush. They’ll never hold it, examine the handwriting, interpret the scratchy silence between songs. Who reading this doesn’t remember the painstaking process of hitting pause and record simultaneously? The lengths you went to to avoid large, gaping moments of silence while you switched tapes or waited for the radio to get back to its regularly scheduled Top 40? What we did for love, eh?

I assume kids still put songs together for their friends and crushes. Somehow however, the notion of a Spotify playlist stored in the Cloud looses something in translation. It exists, but that whole Cloud thing makes it ethereal, less real. In twenty years there will be nothing to physically occupy the little case with a spotlight in their personal museums.

Similarly, my kids will never know what it’s like to sit with their legs up on the door frame, the phone cord stretched to its limit, pulled taut as a clothesline while they gossip and dream and whisper into the mouthpiece.

They will never giggle into a receiver tucked into their chin, or hold it on their shoulder while they promise they’ll be off in a minute.

They won’t know even know what it’s like to wait. They have grown up with pause and fast forward, with broadband and box sets and binge watching.


They won’t know what it’s like to sip ginger ale in the nurse’s office because Mom isn’t home to answer the phone when school calls.

They’ll never know the sharp scent of freshly mimeographed paper. They won’t know to wait a moment while it dries or risk spending the day with purple ink smeared on your fingers.

They’ll never know what it’s like to fly into the air when someone bumps you too hard on the see-saw. Or to swing by the ankles suspended seven feet above the asphalt at recess.

They won’t know what it’s like to race to grab the house phone  in case it’s the girl you just gave your phone number to on a scrap of notebook paper torn from your Trapper Keeper.

They’ll never know what it’s like to send film canisters off in the mail or risk a summer vacation’s worth of photographic memories with Billy at the FotoMat.

They’ll never take a typing test with a trash bag over their fingers or listen to the swing of the carriage return. They won’t know the smell of Wite-out or the excruciating pain of pulling the page out to start all over again.

They’ll never know the sound of a dial-up connection, or a busy signal.

Post QueueThey’ll likely never know what it’s like to wait for a letter or to take a road trip stretched out in the back seat of the car.

They’ll never know the gilded pages of an Encyclopedia set or the sweet torture of a card catalog.

They’ll never have to get up to change a channel or tune a station or hold their pee until the commercial.

They’ll never go into the store with a note from their mother permitting them to buy a pack of Pall Malls, they won’t flip through LPs in a record store, know how to rewind or have a librarian use a date stamp that’s been manually changed that morning.

They’ll never appreciate the hi-tech graphic exquisiteness that was Pong.

They’ll never know the exhilaration of accidentally on purpose pegging the girl you hate playing Dodge ball in a school sanctioned moment of rubber ball revenge.

They’ll never get that little finger callous from hours spent practicing the swirl of loopy, cursive writing.cursive

They’ll never know the smell of Noxema on a sunburn or slathering baby oil on to get a base tan. They’ll never know the stink of an Olgivy perm the smell of Love’s Baby Soft, the oil slick of watermelon Bonne Belle, the hours spent perfecting the flick of the wrist that led to the perfect feathered bang.

Judy Blume books won’t be as shocking, Flowers in the Attic will seem tame. The Day After will seem quaint and retro.

They won’t know who Ponyboy Curtis or Jake Ryan are. They won’t know what happened one Saturday morning in detention when a jock, an athlete, a brain, a princess and a basket case all got together.

It’s entirely possible they won’t have a life that isn’t tracked, tweeted,  texted or electronically tailed.

Oh, there is plenty they will know. They will know love and friendship. They will know new and better ways. They will know more and faster. They are connected in a way that we never were; to each other and to the world around them. They are growing up in a world where most don’t think twice if a fourteen-year-old walks down the hallway with his boyfriend or a black man is elected president of the United States. They’ve seen how a hashtag can mobilize a country. The world is getting smaller, change is happening faster and they are a part of it.

Perhaps their personal artifacts will be stored in the Cloud somewhere. Maybe their museums will be accessible by GoogleGlasses and Zuckerberg bucks. But they’ll never have a mixed tape.

I’m glad we still have ours.





40 thoughts on “Mixed Tapes and Other Things My Kids Will Never Know

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      1. Of the dozens of memories to which I could relate, Noxzema is the one I wanted to mention. To answer your question: yes, they still make it – repackaged, of course.

        Brilliant post. thank you.


    1. Thank you! Some things are a lot fun to write, some….not so much. This was fun. I can’t remember what I went to the kitchen cupboard for most of the time, but my recollections of growing up are pretty vivid for some reason!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mine too. It must be that short term memory goes first and we keep our long term memory and perhaps even increase it. Sometimes when I ask my 89 year old mother something, she’ll say, “I haven’t lived long enough to remember that yet.”


    1. Andra, an excellent thing to be high on. I think we should bring them back into fashion. Along with leg warmers and neon. (I actually wear leg warmers all the time here in DK, they really do keep your legs warm!).


  1. Funny, just yesterday I was telling my son about the mixed tape I made for his Dad. Jacob knows his dad and I don’t have the same taste in music,. “what was on it?” He asked.

    “20 songs it turned out he HATED,”

    Oh well. We’ve now been together for 30 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An artifact in your museum of love, Elyse. I’m sure there were some songs on the one I made for my husband which he scratched his head over while he was listening to it. Some years ago we downloaded all the songs we could onto a iPod playlist, so even though we can’t physically play the tape anymore, we can listen to the original compilation.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s cute. I can so relate. We’re together 31 years as of this month. Congrats to both you and to us. I guess that’s almost as big a deal as finding a cassette.


      1. 31 years is a huge achievement! We’re 20 next year. I still have the cassette…in fact, my husband made me a 21st century version for Xmas this year, on a USB stick ;-).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. yeah there’s few things from the past that I have any nostalgia for, but maybe the concept of getting a mixed tape from potential bfs. Based on his choice of music, you decided whether to go out with him.


  3. Very nice, I wonder what our parents thought we would miss? Radio shows? Operator assisted calls? No seatbelts? I still have all my mixed tapes and actually bought a dual tape deck from the local second-hand store so I could listen to them. Nostalgia makes me do strange things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I lost most of mine in a flood, sadly. I never did buy the Les Mis soundtrack on cd…..I know every generation thinks theirs was the end all be all. I think it’s part of reconciling the act of aging. It’s the part before becoming a cantankerous old coot with a shotgun on the porch.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you know you can’t even donate them any more? No one will take them :-(. I had a set that my parents put together over time and I still remember how they sat on my bookshelves. It was like all the world was in there, just waiting to be discovered.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You have an amazing memory and wonderful way of bringing it all back in the moment. Loved this post! Thank you. I’m sharing.


      1. You’re welcome! Ironically I began reading through this as I was listening to Spotify collecting a play list. lol. You’re right. It’s just not the same as an old fashion cassette tape with crackling silence between tracks. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

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