Mail, Mix-Tapes and Me

When I was in middle school, two of my favorite things were mail and mix tapes. I loved giving and receiving both. We’ve already established that I developed a love for writing early in life, so writing letters was a regular part of my years. And having an uncle who is a DJ took mix tape making to a whole new level.

Being super involved in my church youth group, I always met friends at summer camps and on mission trips who lived in other places so I had no shortage of people to write to. I am certain I wrote three times as many letters as I received; although I did receive my fair share and I have saved them all! I have shoe boxes full of mail from those years. It’s hysterical to read through them now, each letter sounds a lot like what someone would say when they sign your yearbook:

“Hey Girl, It was so great meeting you. You’re so sweet. We had so much fun on the Hammer Heads crew at World Changers. I hope you are having a good summer. Have you heard from that boy you had a crush on all week at camp? I think you will probably marry him one day, J/K. Well, gotta go for now. Write me back! LYLAS”

All these superficial letters were fun to send and receive but it wasn’t until my dear friend Melissa moved away to North Carolina that the letters went from light-hearted to life-line. She was one of my best friends, my closest confidants, and when I found out she was moving so far away I was devastated. This was years before emails, cell phones, and free long distance so we committed to write. And write we did. I still have many of those letters too. They were honest and heartfelt and reading them felt like we were sitting together gabbing away as usual. I find it interesting that today, 20 years later (gaaaaa) she and I both blog! Her blog is way better than mine though. You should definitely check it out! Now instead of trading letters we just read each others blog to keep up with whats going on with the other. I am glad she writes because the distance separating us is even greater now and if not for her blog I am not sure that I would really know what was going on in her world. She also made awesome Mix Tapes. Pretty sure she is the one who got me hooked on The Cure and introduced me to Sioux Sioux and the Banshees.

So my uncle is a DJ and when I was little he used to let me get into some of his DJ stuff. He had the classic “two turn tables and a microphone” and more albums than a record store. Believe it or not, I was spinning and mixing when I was 12, I swear it. And I was good, too! I spent hours upon hours upon hours sorting through those albums, discovering music on the B sides of 45s and making mix tapes of the best songs for myself and my friends. Sometimes my uncle and aunt would let me invite a friend over to spend the night and we would literally stay up the entire night looking through records and making tapes. These were the days of U2, Bon Jovi, GNR, REM, Janet and Michael, Bobby and Whitney, Debbie and Tiffany, C+C, Young MC, Hair Bands, and, yes, NKOTB, with the occasional M.A.R.S. and New Order. Oh late 80s and early 90s. If not for XM radio the youth of today just wouldn’t know…

Speaking of today’s youth, I think about some of these memories and think about my kiddos and I am sad for them that they won’t have the opportunity to enjoy these simple pleasures. I mean, I just bought a Groupon to have some VHS tapes converted to DVDs just so I can actually show my kids some of the videos from my youth. I know some of you are thinking, yeah well at least you have videos! Technology is awesome and I am certainly not a hater but sometimes I think it stinks that our advances in these areas have robbed our younger folks of the joys of delayed gratification. They won’t know what its like to run to check the mailbox everyday to see if they have received a letter from that special someone, they won’t ever learn the importance of re-winding the video tapes so they are ready to go the next time you want to watch them, they won’t experience looking forward to a new record dropping and getting a ride to Cats or Tower or wherever in time before all the copies sold out. It still amazes me that I can hear a song in a restaurant, use an app to tell me what the song is, and from that app click a link that takes me to iTunes to buy the song. I still can’t get over that it takes two second for me to skip to my kid’s favorite part of Cars so she can watch it again, and again, and again.

I just think that when you have to wait on something it means more. You get to think about it, and imagine what it will be like, and look forward to receiving it. And I guess we still do, we just have less time to romanticize what might be and fast forward straight to reality. But I don’t care what anyone says, there is nothing like savoring each word in a handwritten letter from someone you love or painstakingly selecting the order of a mix tape because once its recorded its way too much work to go back and do it over.

Now that I’ve waxed poetic about primitive forms of communication and mass media, let me confess that I work the iTunes playlists like no ones business and my love language is making mix CDs. And I have not hand-written a letter that wasn’t a thank you note in over a decade. Maybe I need to be the one to keep the dream alive. Now if only I could find a tape deck…

This post is one of several in the series “31 Days of Life as I Know It.” Click here to see a list of all posts in the series.


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