About ten years ago at Christmas, back when we lived in Tennessee, I gave Art a radio. Art is not an easy man to gift – Whatever he wants, he simply acquires, and what he desires is usually pretty simple. But he had expressed an interest in a short-wave radio, which delighted me. Finally, a present I could buy that would make Art happy.
I went to Radio Shack at the Bellevue Mall, and there it was: a simple, black radio with an AM, FM and shortwave band. It stood about five inches high, seven inches wide, and maybe one inch deep. It probably didn’t cost much more than $10.00. I brought it home and wrapped it up with two double A batteries. When Art unwrapped it, you would have thought it was the Hope diamond. His whole face lit up. We installed the batteries immediately and found the BBC on the shortwave. So while we unwrapped our gifts, we could hear the lovely strains of a boy’s choir broadcast live from the cathedral in Oxford. It was such fun!
The radio has now become a fixture in our day-to-day lives. We never use the shortwave band – for some reason, I am not able to get anything on it anymore. But the AM and the FM work beautifully. We just feed it a couple of double A’s every six months or so, and it hums along obediently at the touch of an index finger. I turn it on every morning while I make breakfast, listening to “Morning Edition” on NPR. Again, while I’m making dinner, I listen to “All Things Considered”. On the weekends we tune in 790 KABC to hear “Money Talk” with Bob Brinker. Saturday afternoons it’s “Prairie Home Companion” and the news from Lake Wobegone. Sundays while I change the sheets I like to listen to “The Splendid Table” or “Speaking of Faith”. (Of course, we contribute to NPR. The guilt would kill us if we didn’t.)
But the humble little radio. What an instrument of magic! With its three-inch speaker, it brings the world to us. It sits quietly on the kitchen counter in the evening, patiently waiting for us to get through the evening’s entertainment on the bigger, gaudier appliance in the living room. Its little chrome antenna folds in on itself, much in the way that two little hands would be pressed into the prayer position. If it is admonishing us for our fickle behavior, it does so silently. And we do love our Netflix subscription. So we are “equal opportunity” media consumers. The radio knows that and indulges us, nevertheless.
Oh, I know. It’s silly bordering on insane to anthropomorphize a radio. And yet, what a good friend this plain little gizmo has been to us. Sometimes it goes missing when one of us has moved it into the office or the bedroom so that we could listen to it while we do our chores or answer e-mail. Then we shout across the apartment, “Honey, where’s the radio”? But it always shows up, eventually. I actually heard myself tonight declaring, “I don’t know what I’d do without that radio!” Then, before I had time to be embarrassed, I heard the love of my life quietly answer, “I know what you mean!”.