When should I present this recording to my niece?
May 15, 2013 2:43 PM   Subscribe

A while back my sister left a message on my mom's answering machine, saying "Hi mom, we had a baby girl..." and then she goes on to describe the birth of her daughter and how cute she was, basically leaving an audio record of this wonderful occasion. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to save this recording.

It is now twenty two years later. My niece graduates from college this weekend.

Nobody knows I have this.

I would like to present this to my niece and/or her parents at exactly the right point in their lives when it would be most appreciated. I've been saving this recording for twenty two years, not sure when to pull it out and play it, or to whom. I don't even know if it will be met with excitement or indifference. I'm hoping excitement.

Obviously, you don't know my sister or her daughter. But imagine you're 22, or you're a 46 year old parent. At what point in your life would something like this blow you away? Do I email it to my brother to play at her graduation party? (I won't be there) Should I wait until my niece has her own child, assuming she does? Should I give it to the DJ to play at her wedding, if and when she has one? Should I wait for my sister's 50th birthday and give it to her then?

For a number of reasons, even though this announcement is about her first grandchild, I have ruled out my mom as the person whose major life milestones I will use as a deciding factor. She will certainly hear it, I'm sure, though she might not quite get what it's about.

When would YOU want to be presented with something like this? What would be the right moment? Is there a life milestone I haven't thought of? HOW should I present it?

I've waited 22 years, I can wait a bit longer if I need to.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd like it most at the point when I was about to have my own baby. But at the same time, who knows how long that will be or if she will have children. I'd plan to hold onto it at least until that becomes clearer.
posted by Miko at 2:46 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

How incredibly wonderful. I'd vote wedding!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:46 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

No time like the present.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

Give it to her now. You have a good milestone to commemorate. You don't know what might happen to her, her mother, you or the recording between now and some indeterminate time in the future when she might get married or have her own baby.

It's tempting to want to orchestrate the whole thing, but your niece and your sister would probably appreciate it more to get their own copies in private rather than having it sprung on them at some event. If they want to play it for others when that time comes, let it be their choice.
posted by Longtime Listener at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2013 [46 favorites]

I think you should do it sooner rather than later. Her graduation is conveniently near. Who knows what might happen if you wait?

I vote, first make sure it's saved to a medium she can have, like a sound file on a thumb drive. Have it also with you on a playback device like a phone, or an ipod with speakers. Then tell your sister you have something special to play for her and her daughter and the whole family and clear the time with her - like make sure the time is reserved for after graduation dinner or whatever.

I would not try to do anything at her wedding. Some people like surprises at their wedding but a lot of people don't.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wow. You are awesome.

I second giving it to her now, but finding some kind of neat presentation method. Like a cool and appropriate thumb drive or mixing it with music and getting her mom to make a photo slide show with it or putting it on some sort of archival quality disk that's packaged in an interesting way or something.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:57 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make sure you keep a copy around. I know that I lost track of things back when I was 22 that I'd get a kick out of today, too.
posted by straw at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I would send it as a small parcel with a card, for her and her parents to listen to together in private if they'd like, and then they can play it at the graduation party as they like.
posted by jacalata at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

First of all, you may want to ensure the quality of the copy - certainly transfer it to digital if it hasn't been done so already. If it's in audio tape format, you may want/need to have someone 'touch it up' (think photoshop for audio files) if it isn't in the greatest of shape.

I would second the sentiment not to surprise them at some public event - they may feel embarrassed or otherwise (some people don't like to cry in public, and it may make them happily emotional).

Personally, I would present it to them in private; perhaps wrapping it in a nice package in a thumb drive (or the like). That being said, I'd also want to have them hear it while you were present. That way you get to see the looks in their eyes and their emotional reaction.

Also, yes, you are awesome, this is a pretty awesome thing to hang onto, and I imagine they'll be thrilled about it.
posted by el io at 3:03 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

22-year-old me would have been mortified to receive something like this and thought it was beyond sappy (present-day me thinks it's adorable).

The really appropriate time is at her baby shower. This is when birth is being celebrated. Sure, you might have to wait a while longer. But if you really care most about giving it to her at exactly the right moment, baby shower for her first-born is the only option.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:07 PM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

So nice!

I'd save it for the wedding (if it seems likely your niece wants to get married). Failing that, I think it's make a nice birthday gift!
posted by backwards guitar at 3:08 PM on May 15, 2013

You know your sister and niece best, and it's super cool that you have saved this, but as others have mentioned I would avoid the big public display.

being surprised by something like this at my wedding would be really unpleasant for me for a variety of reasons- but being given it privately in a card would be really appreciated.

posted by sarahnicolesays at 3:12 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would play it for them soon at a small family gathering (like a dinner or something celebrating the graduation). Bring it out with not much fanfare, just a quiet time, and say something like, "niece, we're all so proud of you. I have something I've been holding onto for a few years and I'd like you guys to hear it."

Niece might take a minute to catch on.

Expect tears.
posted by phunniemee at 3:19 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, wedding - to me - would be the LEAST appropriate time. Newly married couples are already bombarded with intrusive (and sometimes hurtful!) questions about when they're going to start a family of their own... which casually ignores and undermines the fact that they've *just* celebrated starting a family of their own.
posted by jph at 3:26 PM on May 15, 2013 [15 favorites]

I'd say not for graduation, because (a) you won't be there, and this is very much from you, and (b) graduation ceremonies are about school/friends, more than about life/families.

Maybe at the mother's 50th birthday party? Maybe at the daughter's 25th or 30th? Or maybe the parents will do an anniversary party? The way you describe it, it's not super-personal information, it's just a happy voicemail version of a birth announcement; if there's more to it than that (medical stuff, for example) then maybe in public isn't the best place. But I'd say that a family party isn't the same as "in public".

If there's a wedding, AND if her parents are doing something about their childhoods already (some families love having slideshows of childhood photos of hte couple, for example) then this could work really well with that. BUT, some types of weddings, this wouldn't work as well at; I've been at several where the only group communication/address other than the ceremony itself was toasting at the reception, and although a bride may be touched to hear this recording, it wouldn't flow so well after the best man's roast. The other reason it might not work ideally is that you want this to be a gift she'll notice and remember and think fondly of, and she's going to be emotionally elsewhere on her wedding day; she'd probably appreciate it more on a day that she'd be more focused.

I agree with others that if she has a baby, a baby shower would be a great time for this, and I don't think that it would be "too public".

However, not everybody's plans include getting married or having babies, so don't let your niece's choices delay your giving this to her, if you feel like the time is right. Consider setting a mental deadline, that if she's not leaning in the marriage/kids direction, you'll throw mom/daughter a joint 55th/30th birthday party or whatever.
posted by aimedwander at 3:26 PM on May 15, 2013

Regardless of which event (if any) you pick, I agree with others that it should be an event you are able to attend, even if it is just you getting together with niece and mother to present it to them at their house or yours. Since you won't be at the graduation, are you planning on getting together with them any time otherwise? I agree with the smaller family gathering or small party over wedding reception or any big party.

Nthing making sure you have as high-quality sound as possible on it and format that is easy to play. Also, not to sound morbid, but if you are planning to hang on to it for a while, you might want to either let someone else know about its existence or leave it in a folder on your computer that someone could get to/easily identify as being for niece/mother because, well, stuff happens that is unexpected, and it would be a pity for it to be lost to posterity.

Good on you for preserving it! Very cool.
posted by pitrified at 3:39 PM on May 15, 2013

I realize this might not be the most popular answer, but I'd say sit on it. Someday your sister will pass (as will we all), and assuming it happens when you are still around, you can give it to your niece privately as something to help her remember her mother, something surprising and sweet and thoughtful that she will likely cherish...and if you aren't around, hopefully you will have willed it to your niece, and when she listens to it while grieving your passing, it will show her how much you've always cared about her (since you kept it all that time.)

having said that: whatever you do, make sure you make copies, in various formats that are likely to last a long time, if you're currently holding this on an old cassette or similar.
posted by davejay at 3:41 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Life is unpredictable; who knows what the future will bring. As a semi-recent graduate (2010), I think graduation is actually a great time for this--she is likely to be feeling a little sad, a little older than she wants to, and a lot insecure about starting a life, particularly if she doesn't have a job set up yet (but even if so!). The recording would be a nice little reminder that she's someone's baby and she has a reliable support system no matter what. I know post-graduation for me was a time of really appreciating my mother's support (and also her driving me a little crazy, but y'know, a little of both).

If she's having any kind of party or get-together or celebration, just prior to that (when it's just intimate family) would be the best time, IMO.

(Also, how thoughtful! Bonus sister/aunt points for you.)
posted by aintthattheway at 3:42 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

This sounds very sweet.
I agree with DoubleLune; at 22, I would have found this mortifying, or mystifying. I wouldn't really get it.

At 30, after living a little, and experiencing the loss of loved ones, this would be a touching memento that I would appreciate.

I agree with the suggestion above - maybe set an older milestone as a deadline (30th birthday or whatnot), though you could keep yourself open to any major life event that might happen earlier, and that would seem like a good opportunity for this gift.

(TL,DR: wait until she's old enough to, uh, have realized the cold grasp that mortality has on us all, so she can actually appreciate the joy of having been born, and into such a loving family)
posted by vivid postcard at 3:48 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I honestly don't see the connection to graduation at all, except in the "personal milestone" sense. (Although, on preview, aintthattheway reminds me that other people's families are different than mine.) I just remember being about her age and utterly exasperated by the childhood mementos my mother was insisting I not only keep, but care about. I don't want your recording to suffer the same fate as my elementary-school papers.

I think it's most appropriate for (and would be most appreciated at) the birth and/or adoption of a child of her own, though I understand that not everyone goes that route. To help offset the "who knows what the future may bring" angle, you might consider giving it to them when your sister is twice as old as she was when her daughter was born (i.e., "now you've been together for the majority of your life").
posted by teremala at 3:55 PM on May 15, 2013

If you do decide to wait, please make several copies and tell someone else about it -- if something happens to you you don't want this to never get to her.

But I agree with people who are saying now's the time. I would say definitely definitely not wedding (public is bad, future-life-pressure is bad, all of those things). And frankly, if you attach it to something like her having her own kid it would get lost in the shuffle. I think as a "you are now an independent adult, out in the world, but here's how you started" thing, that's very nice.
posted by brainmouse at 4:04 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Give it to her now, with a note that says to listen to it when she's feeling low, needs love, her mother passes, etc. So she'll have it, come what may, but will listen to it when it's special.
posted by Grandysaur at 4:08 PM on May 15, 2013

I appreciate that you've waited 22 years already so it feels like nothing to wait a few more, but I really feel like people who are telling you to wait have... maybe not had a personal experience with the fragility of life yet, even and especially in young people. I would give it now. It's a nice milestone and it's more than appropriate. If she isn't fully poised to appreciate the sentimentality now, she can revisit it and appreciate it more in years to come. No harm done.
posted by telegraph at 4:28 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I say wait until she's older. If she decides to have kids, when she's pregnant would be a perfect time.

And god forbid, if something happens to mother or niece in the meantime, you could present it to the surviving family member in memoriam.
posted by mokin at 4:39 PM on May 15, 2013

The niece's 25th birthday. "Sister, 25 years ago you brought this amazing young woman into the world. I've been holding on to a memento of that day, waiting for the right time to share it with you both. *ROLL TAPE!*"
posted by amaire at 4:43 PM on May 15, 2013

I think the gift is not just for your niece, but also for your sister - she is the one who is particularly attached to the memory of giving birth.
posted by amaire at 4:44 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's on tape, right? I'd get it digitized first, and then make a slide show or video of baby pictures with the phone call as a VO. And give it to her mom--the daughter isn't going to be as touched as her mother will be.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, what amaire said. I wouldn't give it to your niece at all. I would give it your sister. She is the one who has the memories of that day, and the memories of that call. She's the one who is likely to break down in tears when she hears it. She's also the one who can most meaningfully give it to your niece. She can say, "this was me when you were born; this is how excited I was; this is how I told grandma that you'd arrived."

Coming from her mother, it will have great meaning. Coming from you directly to your niece it could come across as strangely voyeuristic. Sorry, I don't mean to be critical. I think it's super awesome that you saved the recording. I just think you should give it to your sister, and let her take it from there. It's her voice and her memory, after all.
posted by alms at 4:58 PM on May 15, 2013 [17 favorites]

At every age I've every been, I LOVE it when my parents tell me my birth story, which they often do on my birthday (and I'm almost 40). So I vote for a birthday, when you will be there, and when it's just a small group of family present. Was her mom 24 when she had her (doing the math in your post)? If so, it might be nice to wait until your niece was 24. The older I've gotten, and the more I admire my mother, I often find myself thinking about where she was at each age when I reach it. We've had such different lives, but there's something about doing this that makes me feel that much more connected to her.
posted by megancita at 6:18 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

What format is this in now? I'd find somebody who was technically savvy and get it into a WAV or low compression MP3 format pronto. A great birthday gift would be an MP3 player / Ipod / whatever people put music on this week preloaded with this file.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:42 PM on May 15, 2013

I would give it to her mother on Mother's Day.
posted by Riverine at 6:51 PM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree that you shouldn't wait too long.

But don't you want to be there when they hear it? I bet they would like you to be there... I know if I received such a thoughtful gesture from a family member, I would want to be able to see that person right then to thank them and to enjoy the moment with them. Save it for a milestone you will be around for! A birthday sounds good, no need to wait until she decides to have a baby.
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:36 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you can't wait and/or it doesn't look like she'll have kids or a hubby soon, a 25th birthday is a fine milestone. Graduation is fine, too.
posted by rhizome at 9:49 PM on May 15, 2013

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