He wanted to listen to music as he fell asleep. There is an old cassette tape--full of instruments and dolphin sounds--that I bought at a craft fair in Lake Tahoe as a child. He picked it up, turned it over in his hands. "Can I listen to this one?" he asked me and I nodded. Up and down. Not side to side.
I turned my back to close the curtain. I heard the frustrated sound of cramming something large into something small. I looked over my shoulder.
That boy, born in the ridiculous heat of a July summer in 2006, was trying to shove the cassette into the tape player. Problem was, it was still in the case. Harder he pushed. "How! Does! This! Work?" he ejected through clenched teeth. He noticed me watching him in amusement. "Why isn't this working? What am I doing wrong?"
I was young again, playing Tiffany and Paula Abdul and, of course, Amy Grant. I was lying on the brown carpet in my bedroom, sunlight streaming through the window. I was painstakingly pushing Record. Stop. Record. Stop. to make the best mixed tape you've ever heard because where else would New Kids on the Block be featured back to back with Sing Your Praise to the Lord? And then came CDs.
Here we were, some two and a half decades later, my son looking at a tape like he'd never seen one before. Somewhere, in some alternate universe, the 80's are crying. I showed him how to open it. He held the tape in his hands. Turned it over. Examined it.
"Wow! Cool!" Retro. He slid it into the player. "That's great," he giggled.
Maybe I'll start dressing him in neon parachute pants.