Arrival, ABBA

Because I got my first lot of records all at once I never really had that legendary “first record” moment. My great-great Aunty Fay died in 2012, when I was 15 and learning the meaning of the word ‘alternative’. She was a neat old lady who doted upon children, gave me shortbread biscuits for Christmas and always put too much salt on her vegetables. She was also the only person I knew at the time who still owned a turntable, though I had never heard her play anything on it.

After the wake I did the only sensible thing and claimed the Sanyo stereo set for myself, along with the small collection of LPs that came with it. This sudden acquisition gave me the curious experience of listening to the music of a life now past, trying to picture when and how my aunt had first heard these songs. Was Bing Crosby playing at a dance when she first saw Stanley, the man with whom she would later elope to Sydney? Did Vivaldi drift from the radio while she straightened out her first newly built home? Did she hum along to ABBA as she made dinner? Was the country and western collection her own or Uncle Stan’s? Did she ever play it after he died? Had she ever just sat, alone in her lounge room, and wept over a particular song that struck her heartstrings?

I would never know for sure, but afterwards I knew my old aunt better, perhaps better than I had while she was alive. I had heard her music, her soundtrack, right down to the final song: Fernando by ABBA, the song that played as they rolled her coffin away. I think of my aunt whenever I spin her wax, and I often wonder who will listen to my own records when I am gone.