It’s rarely rocket science trying to figure out what to give to me as a gift. Oh, sure, I enjoy reading non-music books sometimes and gift certificates are always appreciated. I won’t even wince too hard if I’m assaulted with a set of soaps — it is nice to smell pretty, and beggars can’t be choosers.
But although my close friends know I’m a music fiend, they often stumble when it comes time to choose a gift. Most stay away from giving me anything in the realm of music for fear that it will be something I already own. When it comes to CDs and DVDs, they’re usually better off avoiding that area. And most recognize I’m finicky about which music books I trust, so if it’s not on the Amazon wish list, a surprise may not be the greatest plan. There’s no point in getting me equipment when I have had mp3 players for years and some sort of music-producing unit in nearly every area I habitually reside.
Maybe that’s why I have so much soap.
The few who have braved the challenge of gifting both a music-related item and one which I had not deliberately pointed out usually realize the challenge they have taken upon themselves, so they have a greater chance of doing well. This past winter holiday brought me a professional-quality vocal microphone and a rather respectable turntable, and my birthday produced a lovely set of Depeche Mode remixes on vinyl. I was filled with unbelievable glee.
So it rather startled me this past week when my mother-in-law randomly dropped a musical birthday gift into my lap. Surely she had no idea what kind of risk she was taking. Her choice was almost flippant, yet so obviously perfect: a large box of old 45s, nearly 200 of them.
This caused me to regress back to seven years old on Christmas morning. I promptly stopped caring about pretty much anyone and everything around me while I giddily flipped through them one by one. Bryan Adams. Journey. Abba. Phil Collins. Glass Tiger. Neil Diamond. Heart. The theme to St. Elmos Fire. Not only was “We Are the World” represented, but “Hands Across America” made its appearance as well. Sure, half of them were terrible garbage destined to be made into tires, but for half of them to be priceless is much better odds than most when faced with a miscellaneous box of old music.
I couldn’t seem to stop flipping through them, rearranging them, sorting them, and studying them. Occasionally, I would grab one which I had touched several times before and suddenly realized that I did indeed know the A-side. The MIL had remarked she was surprised that I recognized so many of the artists; funny how someone who couldn’t have chosen a better random gift didn’t realize what sort of ridiculous cavern she had just lept into.
And after a few days of playing with this new batch of loveliness, where am I now? Well, I haven’t played a single one yet, but all I know is that I want more. I am bloodthirsty — or, rather, vinylthirsty. I had never gotten into 45s before because it seemed silly for me to dabble when the majority of my investment was in LPs. But now that I have an actual collection to start with? Oh boy. It reminds me of my younger days just discovering Led Zeppelin or Rush and scrambling to buy all of their albums. A huge task, but one driven by a feeling of necessity. One may dub me a completist; I justify my behavior as simply not wanting to miss out on anything.
I’m reminded of the CDs I have returned and the fake smiles I’ve given when music gifts went wrong and wonder again: how hard is it, really, to please a music lover who has a lot but certainly not everything? Do we try too hard? When holidays approach and we’re dumbfounded as to what to get someone, should we all call my mother-in-law?
Put another dime in the jukebox, baby.