In the way before time, we were dirt, as in dirt poor. Mom was taking care of all us and she told me one day in December that there wasn’t going to be enough to make it a big Christmas for everyone. Then she asked me if I would be ok with getting less because after all the younger two still believed in Santa. I was 10 and considered old enough to be in the know about ways of the world, after all I had my first kiss that summer and was already downing a lot of coffee every morning. It seemed reasonable and I didn’t want to be a baby so I said yes. I’m sure it killed her to ask me to do this, and she must have appreciated my acceptance because she said I could go in her room after school and play records, I wasn’t normally allowed to do this because her boyfriend was a dick about the records even though I knew how to take care of them.
So between getting home from school and Mom getting home I had an hour and a half to lay on the big bed and listen to music alone. On the big stereo with the silver tone finish and giant knobs I could spin my favorites at that time: Abbey Road, Best of The Jackson 5, and The Ventures Greatest Hits. When it moved me I could shake it or jump on the bed and see myself in the mirror across the room. It was my first physical connection to music, the first time I realized you listened with more than your ears. I made myself lo fi copies of my favorite songs by holding a tape recorder up to the speakers and those afternoons made it seem like Christmas wouldn’t be so disappointing.
As the last day school day before Christmas passed I wondered to myself “Is this record deal only through Christmas or can I do this all the time” I was afraid to ask.
Christmas morning finally came and I kept my bravest face and smiled. Mom got up and left the room while the boxes and wrapping were cleaned up then she came back in, kissed me on the head and thanked me for being so grown up about things. Also, she told me I should go to my room right away because there was one last thing for me. On the floor covered by a sheet was her receiver and turntable, in all of their silver tone and wood finished glory. It turns out that her boyfriend had decided to buy himself a new setup for Christmas so while I was inside being brave she carried in the components and a pair of wood cabinet speakers she scavenged somehow. It was better than anything else I could have gotten even before she pulled out the records that went along with it. Honestly, I couldn’t name three other gifts I got as a kid but the record player I’ll probably never forget.