The Motorola Console Stereo

When I was a young kid, in the early 1970’s, my parents had a Motorola console stereo.  It sat under the window in our living room, and had my older brother’s and sisters’ framed high school graduation photos on it. Every now and then, not everyday by any stretch, but sometimes, my mother would take the photos off and lay them aside and put on a record. 

I remember the long wooden creak of the lid lifting as she picked an album, the sound of the record dropping onto the turntable, and the rhythmic light scratching right before the music started playing.  My mother would put on a record and could fill the room, the house, the neighborhood with rich, beautiful music. 

I was never, ever allowed to touch the stereo.  Or bump it while it was playing, or put anything on top of it for fear of scratching it.  I never took the picture frames off, lifted the lids or put a record on.  To me, it was the most important and special thing we had.  We had a crappy black and white TV, an old unfashionable car, a house that was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, hell, I remember my mother washing clothes in the ancient wringer washer, but somehow we had this fabulous stereo.  To say it was magical would be cliche, but it was.

My mother spent a lot of my childhood struggling with mental illness which meant we all spent a lot of time dealing with my my mother’s mental illness.  Today we know she has Bipolar Disorder (Type I, I thnk) and is on medication and able to function, but in the early 70’s (and before) it was a mystery to everyone; to me, to her, to us, to the doctors.  I remember a doctor making a house call and his prescription was “you need to pull yourself together”. 

My mother swung between a depression that put her on the couch for endless days, to manic episodes of angry shouting, paranoia and 3 am vacuuming.  But there were breaks as we drifted from one storm to the next, where things seemed normal.  She would leave the house, bake, visit with friends, and sing.

My mother had a beautiful voice and loved to sing.  She was a soprano who sang in church, in the community choir and all over the house.  She would sing while she was making the beds.  She would sing while she was baking chocolate chip cookies.  She would sing while she stood on sheets of newspaper ironing the bedsheets in the basement.  She would sing when we didn’t want her to sing and we would yell, “Ma! Please stop I’m…on the phone, watching TV, my friends are here…”  Sometime she would stop, and sometimes she would just go back to the basement to iron and sing. 

And sometimes she would put a record on the stereo, turn it up the volume and I would sit on the rug and feel the floor shake as I listed to my mother sing.





7 responses to “The Motorola Console Stereo

  1. You, my dear friend, are a brilliant writer.

  2. Family memories honored and beautifully written.

  3. Your writings bring me right back to a moment in time that I haven’t thought of in years. I smile to think that you will be making happy memories for your children with the Motorola at “10.”

  4. Chris, I was right there with you! Love and hugs and my sincerest sympathy. Xox

  5. Chris, this site is brilliant and your words about Ma brought memories just flooding back all afternoon. I had honestly forgotten about her beautiful voice and the singing, but I remember the record player clear as a bell, the basement and the laundry (remember the tunnels?!) the cookies!! Rides to school in the Pirie mobile, lunches in Stowe – what a treat! where my I always felt bad my mother never gave me enough money to pay my way. I also remember you coming to see me one day after she’d had a breakdown, and you were so scared and upset. I remember you telling me how awful it was, and I remember feeling so helpless. How little we knew then and how much we know now. Ma and Pa Pirie raised a really brilliant, funny, beautiful daughter who is a gift to this world. Cherish those memories, they made you who you are today my friend. Best wishes to you and the family while you grieve her loss. XO

  6. Sorry Chris, fhunleased is Deb M!. >:)

  7. Kristina Boving

    Chris, So lovely to read about your memories. I think I would have liked to have known your mom- she sounds like quite a neat lady- sorry she had to struggle so much in her life. Know we are thinking of you and sending you and your family prayers and healing.
    Love, Kristina and family

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