范围之家 (Keep Reading…)

A new study has come out asserting (based on 1000 Greek septuagenarians) that eating fruits, vegetables and beans and drinking tea and coffee will stave off dementia. Sounds good to me. OK, where was I going with this… Oh yeah, mental cobwebs. They do happen, for me over the things I do routinely, without thinking, the things that don’t demand attention. I can easily forget if I’ve done them or not. But that wasn’t what I was going to write about this morning. It was this…

For the little reading I’m doing at the local museum next month, a reading from my China book, the chapter on Christmas in Guangzhou in 1982, I wanted to play a song from the recently uncovered cassette tape the Good X made on Christmas morning when Guangdong Radio (local state radio station) played American music for the handful of Americans then living in the province. They couldn’t have had much to play as everything American had been prohibited for such a long time — pretty much since WW II. But there we were, and they were thankful, and aware that we were living in pretty rough conditions compared to what we were used to. Also, for Chinese, family and home are very important — everything in a sense — and we’d all left ours to help with China’s “reconstruction”. And Christmas? To them it was the Western equivalent of Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and they felt we all must be terribly homesick. That morning the radio played three or four songs that had words — and a lot of elevator music.

I wasn’t homesick, but I was sick. I had the flu. As my mom was wont to say, “You’re always sick on Christmas,” which was more-or-less true. That morning — after a big party for students the night before — I lay in bed and listened to the radio. It was the ONE time the Good X ever cooked me a meal (scrambled eggs).

I wanted to play ONE song from that tape during my reading but I didn’t have a tape player and couldn’t find one among all the people I know who never throw anything out. OK, OK, it’s been a while since cassettes were state of the art, but… I went on Amazon and found one I could afford (available in auspicious colors for China!) and that had blue tooth so that when this event is over, I can just play it in my studio from my phone or my old iPod.

My big fear was that the tape was old and dried out and would break, so once I set up the mini-boombox, I put in my one other tape — Sex Pistols, which was already queued to “My Way,” the best version. I sat and enjoyed that then took a deep breath, opened the scratched up case with the song list written neatly by my computer programmer ex-husband, and slid it into the player. The last time I played it was probably 1984. Big Brother was watching, I’m sure of it.

It worked. After a minute or two, I turned it off and got my phone. If the tape broke, I wanted a back-up. I did a test and it was great. I had a back up for the reading. THEN I saw how ugly and un-Chinese the background on the test was (old skis, desk lamp, some books). I designed a set. It’s not exactly Chinese, but not exactly NOT Chinese. Anyway, it’s not ugly. Ready. I sat down on my drawing stool, and commenced. I could have done better, but the dogs didn’t bark once the whole time. I don’t know if THAT would happen again so I’m calling it good.

I wept yesterday, listening to the song, remembering how it felt back then, sick with the flu, so far from Colorado and the mountains on Christmas morning. I was beyond happy to be in China, but this song? One of the first songs I learned in my life, a song I sang as a very little girl. ❤


23 thoughts on “范围之家 (Keep Reading…)

  1. That is wonderful! What a kind thing for them to do.

    I have a gadget that records cassette tapes to MP3 for the computer. We have a big stack of tapes going al the way back to the 70s we keep meaning to record but we never do.

    • I looked at that gadget, too, then realized it wasn’t what I needed. I needed to play ONE tape and have better speakers in my studio. 😀 So far so good.

      I listened to the whole tape yesterday and ALL the songs would minister to homesickness — “Dear Heart, wish you were here” that kind of music. I understood more about it yesterday than I did at the time. ❤

  2. Mental cobwebs are hardest to clean. So many myths and facts regarding every basic concept of life. Everyone is a coach now promoting an idea or theory. Wonderful post.

    • You’re right. So many people right now have access to media that allows them to put their ideas out there — if they are ideas. Fortunately, both of the articles I read on the fruits, veggies, beans, tea and coffee theory came with the caveat “This was only an observational study.” BUT since I like veggies, fruits, beans, tea and coffee I was happy to read it and THAT is the key. It fed right into my preferences. 😀

  3. Thanks for sharing the video and I think the background looks really good. I also learned this song as a young child and listening to it while being only about five miles from my childhood home was emotional. I can’t imagine what it might have felt like from the other side of the world. I also like the painting. All the best for the reading next month.

    • Thank you Michael! I’m sure I’ll write a post about the reading when it’s over. The featured photo is only the bottom of the painting which is a pretty big piece, mostly sky. That’s a place near my home — in fact, my doctor’s office is up against those bigger hills. I just didn’t paint it into the picture. The ranch there raises bison. It’s pretty cool to walk out of my doctor’s office to a pasture filled with bison.

  4. Martha–how perfect was it to hear this song so far from home?! I got goosebumps thinking of you listening to this. The background is just fine–I was listening more than looking, quite honestly. Your audience is going to love this.

  5. There were two sounds that touched my heart. The first~your voice. It’s just as I thought. I loved hearing it. Home on the Range is one of my favorites because of my Dad. This all brought tears. Not only because I was told I had early onset dementia after my traumatic brain injury (“no I’m not going to take Aracept, Dr.”) and I’ve fought hard to recover and keep memories, but my favorite uncle, as I type, is being put in a memory unit of The Gardens nursing home in Springfield. My mom is heartbroken for her older brother; this song reminds me of days with his homemade guitar and songs by the River. I can’t imagine being in China and homesick on Christmas. I’m impressed by the sound quality of the player! The tea set and tapestries are beautiful too. Everyone will surely love it as we all do here. ❤️🤗🐾

    • Thank you, Karla! I plan to play the actual tape at the reading, but this is in case the tape breaks. All those years in the classroom taught me that stuff breaks when you really need it to work! ❤ I think that radio station played Home on the Range because some Chinese WW II veteran who worked with Americans during the war said it was an important song to Americans. I don't know that; it's just a guess. In South China a LOT of Chinese military worked with the US soldiers. It's really the quintessential American song — maybe it should be the national anthem. We'd be a different country if it were.

      I'm sorry about your uncle — that just sucks. ❤ Love to you and Finn ❤

  6. Martha, loved listening to your voice and the song! What memories! Thanks for sharing.

    I do hope they come out with a broom to brush away mental cobwebs. Till then veggies, fruits and tea/ coffee should do. At least they don’t have any side effects!

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