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Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

I’ve done a pretty good job of saving stuff – I’ve got old pictures, videos, 8mm film, audio cassettes, certificates, kindergarten drawings, cards, letters, notes, scribbles. I save stuff. It’s kinda my thing.

But there’s a short list of things that I haven’t saved that I regret. All of my old skateboard decks from the mid-80s, for instance. Wish I still had them. There’s a videotape that I shot at my grandparents’ house that has disappeared (meaning – my Dad probably recorded “Rambo VII” over it.) I wish I still had the “Y’all Stop” song that we recorded as kids. Oh, and that one tape where my brother and I recorded our flatulence for a few weeks straight – that would be nice to have.

But that’s really about it. Like I said, I’ve saved most everything else. Still, it’s hard not to fixate on the stuff that got away.

My hopes weren’t high as my brother, Bryan, opened up the cardboard box that he’d labeled “Memories.” He moved recently and, while paring down his belongings, realized that he was ready to get rid of some of his memorabilia. But he was thoughtful enough to give me first dibs. We have shared memories, after all.

He pulls out a vinyl zippered pouch from the box. I know what this is without having to ask. It’s one of those pouches that banks give to clients to keep their deposits in. This one is deep blue with “Sunburst Bank” printed on it in yellow letters. It’s from the small-town bank in Mississippi where our grandfather, Papa, worked. There were lots of these bags around my grandparents’ house, and we played with them as kids. Yes, we had bank deposit bags as toys. Life was different before the Internet. This little blue bag was at least 30 years old, but looked brand new. Vinyl ages well.

“I don’t need this to remind me of Papa,” he says, and hands it to me. Maybe I don’t either, but I’ll sure take it. Score.

He reaches back in his “Memories” box and hands me a cheap cassette tape in a plastic case. Written on the front is “Bryan and Kelly” – Kelly is our cousin. When not playing with bank bags, we’d make audio tapes of plays and fake radio stations. I’ve kept all of the tapes from those days. Or so I thought. Bryan somehow ended up with this one. I take the tape out of the case and flip it over. It says, in my handwriting, “Y’all Stop.”

And “stop” is exactly what my heart does.

“It’s the ‘stop’ tape!” I yell, holding it up to Bryan like it’s a Gutenberg Bible stuffed with winning Lotto tickets. “THE ‘STOP’ TAPE!”

He’s used to such behavior from me, so he remains calm. “Yes,” he says. “The ‘stop’ tape.”

The “Stop” Tape: Me, my brother and my cousins spent a lot of our childhood at our grandparents’ house. At times the weather would keep us inside, so we’d play hide and seek, or shoot rubber band guns at each other, or have wrestling matches, or whatever it was that kids did before computers. Occasionally our grandmother would reach her limit, so she’d march into the room and proclaim, “Y’all, PLEASE stop runnin’ and rompin’ and rippin’ and scratchin’ and tearin’!”

That’s verbatim.

We decided to commemorate her proclamations in song. Whipping out the cheap Casio keyboard, a recent Christmas gift, I selected a funky beat, switched on the tape recorder and we improvised the “Stop” song, essentially me imitating my grandmother (“Stop! Y’all stop! Stop rompin’! Stop scratchin’!”) while Bryan and Kelly chimed in with the occasional chorus of “Stop!” There was even a Casio solo break. Rock! We played this tape back for everyone, and it was a big family hit.

I remember the moment, and the tape, well and thought for sure that both were lost forever. But now, 28 years after its creation, I’m holding it in my hand! The “Stop” Tape! One of my missing personal artifacts. Astounding! I race home, dig out a cassette player and pop it in.

“Stop! Y’all stop! Stop rompin’! Stop scratchin’! Stop …”

Wow! It’s … it’s …

It’s not quite as good as I remember.


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