Memoir Monday: Records

by Nina Gee, Reporter

Nina Gee
Michael Jackson stares unflinchingly at me from his languid perch on the Thriller album cover. The King of Pop is propped up on the elbow of a vanilla white suit and his curls bounce off the page. The words “Michael Jackson Thriller” burn in glowing cursive across the corner of the album sleeve. Beside him, the Bee Gees pose like smiling angels in a virtual picture frame while John Travolta disco-fingers his way across the album, blazoned with the gaudy electric blue and painted gold of the Saturday Night Fever logo.

I squint at Michael from across the room, resisting the urge to throw something at his intensely expressionless face. I try to ignore the thudding bass in my ears, but somehow still manage to hear the sounds of my father’s footsteps pattering down the hallway.

“It’s here! It’s here!” he squeals. I sigh, tacking up the volume on my computer.

My father noticies my apathy and puts on his disapproving dad voice. “Nina Gee, get over here.”

I sigh again, louder. Leaving my warm spot cuddled on the couch, I make my way over to the small black box sitting across the room.

My father flips open the silver clasp on the briefcase-sized box and gently pries it open. He pauses, as if contemplating how best to go about the small record player in front of him, numbers and analytics running through his mind. Then, he produces a small bottle from behind his back. I launch myself upright and squeal in delight.

“The record cleaner came!”

“Yup.” My dad grins maniacally as he drips some of the clear liquid onto the padded brown brush next to the player.

“Eight drops,” he informs me. Not that I’m listening.

I turn to the record player, fiddling with the arm and the small twisty knobs next to the turntable. My father hands me the disc and I slide it gingerly onto the silver spike that holds the hole in the center of the record. My fingers twitch over the elegantly curved metal arm when I realize, wait, I have no idea how to do this. It should be simple enough. It takes a second in the movies, I think.

I cautiously fiddle with the knobs on the side before picking up the arm and dropping it near the edge of the record. It makes an awful screeching sound and I immediately jerk it away from the disc.

This was a lot harder than I thought this was going to be. I fumble with the arm of the player, crouching down to eye-level with the gramophone before my dad becomes exhausted with my shenanigans and slaps my hand away from the needle. He deftly guides it onto the track. A low scratch fills the air, a strangely warm combination of little clicks and distant hums, the simultaneous sound of honey and cracking firewood.


~‘Well you can tell by the way I use my walk…’~

I throw my hands up.

“Yes!” I pump my arms in the air multiple times, triumphantly. “Yeeeees!”

My dad laughs as I slap my hands down on the carpeted floor in front of me and stare and awe and joy at the spinning circle of vinyl. My eyes are wide with wonder as I look back and forth between my father and the spinning record, jaw dropped and eyebrows flying up to my forehead in delight.

The movement of the disc spinning around itself is hypnotizing, and I get lost in the blur of colors at the center of the disc.

My mother stumbles out of her office. “What is happening out here?”

My father and I simultaneously belt, “Stayin’ alive! Stayin’ alive!” in time with the music.

Disturbed, my mother grabs a bottle of water and retreats back into her office, though I know she enjoys the music and the medium just as much as I do.

We spend a few more minutes just staring at the large black disc spinning circles around itself. I marvel at the science behind it all; how the grooves in this fragile thing could create something so beautiful, so revolutionary. It must have taken a genius to come up with this.

“So,” I begin cautiously. “The rings, they’re different songs?”

My father downright cackles.

“What?” I demand.

“Nothing, nothing,” he wheezes. “I’m just amazed that you don’t know that.” A beat. He repeats himself. “I’m amazed your whole generation doesn’t know that.”

“I mean, I’m not really old. Unlike you.”

“Well I’m cultured. Unlike you.”

I flare my nostrils angrily at him before turning back to the gramophone. It makes these soothing scratching noises as the first few notes of the next song begin to sound out from the speaker. For a moment I break out of the trance the music has put me in, and my mind floats back to the homework waiting patiently for me across the room. I find myself wishing the metal box had some sort of pause button, but I know that that’s too much to ask of the 80s.

“That’s amazing, you know?” I say. “That all that sound comes from, some little bumps in a groove. It’s really amazing.”

“…Yeah,” my father says.

My dad and I spend the rest of the night screeching 80s disco music on the floor of our hallway in ridiculous falsettos. My homework sits unfinished at the corner of the room for a long while.

It’s important to take the time to enjoy the things you love, no matter how trivial they might seem to both other people and to yourself. Something as old and archaic as a record player left me smiling for days on end. It gave me something to bond with my dad and enjoy with my entire family. I feel a strange sense of pride whenever I think about going home and listening to records. Even an ounce of joy can last you forever.