Transistor Radio

It’s always been my nature, as it were, to get to the bottom of things. To find out what drives the strong, yet, on the surface, inscrutable, emotions — emotions erupting without any apparent provocation — that frequently threaten to swallow me up.

Most of my life I’ve told myself, well, you’re just moody — which I guess is partially true. But, I knew there was more to it.

For example, in the past couple of weeks, and because we are planning to move, I’ve found myself riddled with angst about taking or leaving behind our one-of-a-kind, industrial-iron dining room table and six mahogany chairs — the only items of furniture both JC and I truly love — because the table, being heavy, is difficult to carry. It was a purely rational decision.

Even though the dining room set was a wedding gift we’d made to ourselves, still, I had resigned myself to never seeing it again. As if I didn’t deserve to keep it.

But, as is frequently the case with me, a trigger — the prospect of having to hand over the set to someone else — threw me into a bout of self-analysis. Why would I just divorce myself from something to which I’d grown so attached, I asked myself, if I didn’t want to let it go?

Then, out of the blue (from where most epiphanies derive), a memory resurfaced from my past. Something to do with a transistor radio I’d owned as a kid had drifted into my consciousness.

The unsentimental, no-nonsense, cool approach I’d adopted in my adult years toward my most meaningful possessions I was suddenly able to trace back to a birthday present I’d received when I was twelve.

Back then, I had been longing for a transistor radio in the worst possible way. Receiving one of my very own was beyond elation. Compact and blue, it came with its own buttery-soft “genuine leather,” black, perforated carrying case. A looped strap for carrying it around was attached at the upper corner.

Sometimes, at night, I’d place the radio beneath my pillow, turn the volume low and the dial to WABC-AM to listen to the top ten Billboard countdown, which was announced around midnight.

Saving up my allowance, I eventually bought myself an earplug, which made listening at night all the more easy. And, having an earplug meant I could also bring the radio to school.

In class, I would feed the cord of the earphone up the long sleeve of my blouse so that the earbud would emerge from my collar. My hair was long enough for me to disguise its presence pretty easily. During boring lectures, I’d flip on the switch and listen to WABC.

One Saturday, I did what every tween did back then. Met my friends at the mall and brought along my transistor radio. About an hour later, I broke away from them to use the bathroom. I locked myself in and hung the radio by its strap on a hook on the door.

Not until I’d rejoined my friends did I realize that I’d forgotten the radio. I dashed back to the restroom — but I was too late.

I was devastated. When I got home, I tried to explain to my mother what had happened. I begged her for another chance. Swore that I would never take another radio to the mall. Promised I’d be so careful if she would only, please, buy me another one.

The pain of loss was so great, I could feel it all the way down in the pit of my stomach.

Predictably, and in that no-nonsense way of hers, my mother said, no. That you only got one chance in life and I had blown mine.

It was a heavy lesson in the responsibility of ownership — about as heavy as my dining room table.


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