I have very few remnants from my childhood. In fact, most of the contents fit into a shoe box that I keep in a reusable shopping bag along with a couple of old school annuals that I managed to hang onto. That bag has been in various places over the years and has spent the last 10 tucked away in an attic. I can’t recall the last time I peeked inside, it’s mostly filled with a few old letters, pictures, and a silver collectible spoon from when I lived in Arizona around 7 years old. But after writing last week’s post that touched on the time spent in front of my stereo playing DJ, I had the thought that I may have seen a cassette tape stashed in that box once upon a time and I headed up to the attic to check it out.
The next thing you know, I was reading old letters from a friend whom I actually stayed in touch with for a number of years after one of our many moves. It was pretty comical to read about what we were so interested in as 12 year old girls in 1987. There was a lot of drama to be discussed about Madonna (as always), and then there was the shockingly obscene new song from George Michael – I Want Your Sex. Oh, the dilemma to listen or not to listen as the latter was certainly the parental preference. I was also reminded of our deep love for Morten Harket, the stunning lead singer of A-Ha, for those who don’t know. I had to giggle at some of these silly pre-teen girl moments that we had together, those letters were a nice reminder that once in a while I found some space to just be a kid.
At the bottom of the box were two cassette tapes. One looked quite a bit newer by cassette tape standards, but the other one was instantly recognizable to me. Someone else had written Thompson Twins on it in pencil (spelled Tompsen Twins), but had then scratched it out. I had an inkling that this was a tape given to me by my friend Juliana during the time I was in school in Birmingham, MI, but I couldn’t be certain. My first dilemma was that I had no way to play this tape, but thanks to the power of Amazon, the problem was solved rather quickly. When my nifty new boom box showed up on Saturday, I didn’t waste any time popping in the tape to give it a listen. I’ll admit, I was both excited and nervous about what I would hear, I genuinely had no idea what might be on it and I was pressing play with my husband beside me. Initial disappointment washed over me when it was apparent that I had recorded a Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 show on the first side, but it was tough to be too disappointed with a pretty solid week in music. INXS – What you Need, Prince – Kiss, and Falco – Rock Me Amadeus were all in the top 10. Based on the song order, and after some digging through the Rick Dees lists, it appears that this was the 3/29/1986 show. As I continued to bounce back and forth between the FF and Play buttons through a number of songs (the pain of cassette tapes came back pretty strong), I started to settle into the idea that I must have just recorded over any of my material, much like I expected. But right after Falco, things changed. There were some clicking and popping sounds and then a young voice popped in – and that voice was 11-year old me. I just about jumped out of my skin, I was so excited!
It turned out that the last few minutes of side one and then the entire second side were all me and the many characters that I played. It was pretty clear that I never used any sort of plan, and I was just running with my random radio call-in games (where I also acted as the ringing telephone), advertisements, and news, weather and traffic reports on the fly – all run by my DJ alter egos Dick Farten and Dancin’ Panty Schafer. (To give credit where credit is due, these were loosely based on actual 95.5 Detroit DJs at the time – Dancin’ Denny Schaffer and Dick Purtan.) Mary Lou Retton and Sophia Lauren made appearances in random sponsored advertisements, and Rambo even stopped by for an interview where he wanted to talk only about his trained frogs. Traffic reports got pretty wild with talk of giant tarantulas escaping after a massive freeway accident and zombies with pickled intestines were obviously another hot news topic. This goes back to an obsession with the old TV show, Mad Movies and their version of Night of the Living Dead. If I had a nickel for every time I said pickled intestines, well…you know the rest.
While it wasn’t exactly the comedy genius of an 11-year old, there was something pretty special about being able to hear my young voice. I both laughed and cried. I could picture myself sitting on that bedroom floor in front of my stereo, bouncing back and forth between recordings, entertaining myself for hours in my little escape. My mind was blown. When you go through therapy as an ACOA, or anyone who has been through difficult childhood experiences, there is a lot of work to give great consideration to your inner child. To picture them and talk to them, to feel what they felt and remind them that everything is okay because they are still very much a part of you. There was something profound about this moment for me, to be able to actually hear my own voice as that little girl created a connection that can sometimes be a challenge for me to find. It was a hilarious experience, but more importantly, it was kind of beautiful and maybe even a little bit healing.
On another note, as much as I’d like to bring back my DJ days, I think Dancin’ Panty Schaffer should probably remain in retirement.