Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Early Lessons That Stick

Isn't it odd how some things you learn early on remain with you? I was reminded of that this morning as I was listening to an audio book. It was a second hand book that had formerly been part of a lending library. About half-way through the first CD, it started skipping around like crazy. When I examined the CD, I could see finger smudges everywhere. A little cleaning with the cloth I keep in my purse for cleaning my glasses, and all was well.

When we lived in Oak Hill I was 6 years old. My father somehow managed to acquire a very nice stereo console. It wasn't until I was writing this that I realized I have no idea where it came from or how it was paid for, but it stayed with us for many, many years. I believe we kept it until we moved from Smiley to Bastrop, at which time it went to live with my Grandmother Wilcoxen and kept on performing for several more years.

Shortly after the stereo arrived, Daddy took out a membership with Columbia House and started building a record library. It was probably his influence that formed my eclectic taste in music. He bought a lot of Marty Robbins, Andy Williams and Floyd Cramer. He would order sets put out by Reader's Digest that were full of easy listening instrumental and piano. We had a big set of classical pieces performed by the Longines Symphonette. We played the heck out of that stereo and I loved every record in our collection.

I had my own little portable record player that I played endlessly in the back room of that stone parsonage. The room had a bank of windows that looked out on a large back yard and, beyond that, a pasture full of cows and agarita bushes. I would spend hours out there playing my stash of 45s - some that had belonged to Daddy and some that were given to me by a church member. It was that stash that contained I Saw Esau (Sitting on a Seesaw) and Just Walkin' in the Rain, among others. (I can still see those 45s in my mind's eye, stored in their box that had once held a pair of boots. They were scuffed and some were cracked and they followed us as far as Smiley where they ended up in the attic. I think we moved off and left them up there, where they may be till yet.)

For the most part, my personal collection kept me satisfied. But eventually I wanted to listen to Marty and to Andy and to Floyd and to the big orchestral masterpieces.

Daddy gave me permission, but only if I learned to handle the records properly. For the privilege of listening to his records, I learned to pull the records out by the edge and never, never, never touch the grooves where the music lived. When I was finished, I would carefully remove them from the spindle, holding them by the edges, and carefully put them back into their paper sleeve and then into the cardboard outer sleever. I think I could safely swear on a stack of Bibles in court that I have never handled a record in any other way since making that promise so many years ago. I learned that lesson well. As a result, I have several boxes of vinyl LPs in the back of the closet that still play like new, including those original albums we acquired while living in Oak Hill in 1960.

I thought this was the way everybody did it, so I was surprised at the look of amazement on a visiting preacher's face one day when I followed Daddy's instructions to put on a specific record. I guess he was surprised that such a small child could have learned to use such care in handling LPs. Or he was surprised at how much care we took with our records. In any case, he complimented me on knowing what I was doing and it made me feel quite capable. I always did like to feel competent.

I treat my music CDs now with the same care. Awhile back when I bought an audio book at Half-Price Books, they went to get the CDs out of their files (only the empty box and sleeves are on the shelf) and I cringed as I watched the girl pull out each CD and smear her finger prints all over the playing side as she loaded the sleeves. I wanted to ask her if she had been raised in a barn. But I digress.

Every now and then I find myself doing something in a particular way and suddenly realize that I'm doing it that way because it was the way I was taught as a child. Those ingrained routines and procedures have stayed with me because they are the right way to do things.

Our formative years. The scary thing is - for all the good things that have been indelibly carved into our souls, how many of the bad things we do were started way back then as well?


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