Recently I came across a stash of old home movies. Back when our kids were young–and even before we had kids when our two dogs were the only other members of our family–my wife and I shot several 30-minute VHS tapes on an old handheld JVC videorecorder.
For twenty-five dollars at Best Buy, I picked up a VHS-C converter, so we could watch the old tapes on our VCR. And we bought a VHS-to-DVD dubber, so we could get the decade-old movies onto DVDs (and thereby hope that they will be preserved for at least a little while longer in this technologically fluid world we live in).
Then we started watching them.
Our boys–now ten and eleven years old–are enthralled by images of themselves drooling, cooing, toddling, squealing and all the rest.
They are fascinated by our first dog, Sonya, who had to be put down when our kids were little. And they are moved to tears by our long-time canine companion Mindy who we just had to say good-bye to a few months ago after fourteen and a half years of sharing every day with her. Our kids find great joy seeing Mindy jumping happily against our sliding glass door–with brown hair instead of white, frolicking freely with none of the impediments time brought to her in the form of sore hips and a tumor the size of a grapefruit on her leg.
But the happy memories of Mindy cause sadness to bubble to the surface at the same time.
Max, our ten-year-old, suffers quietly–and sometimes not so quietly–through the movies that don’t include him. Then he grins ear-to-ear when he’s the star of the show that blazes forth from our new HDTV.
Our eleven-year-old Alex asks the questions. “When was that?” “Who’s that person there in the blue?” “Did we go to Chuck E. Cheese a lot?”
These 30-minute snippets of our life were almost always filmed on special days like birthdays, times when the grandparents were visiting or the annual Harris-household Easter egg hunt. The video record of the special days skews the memory of all the normal days that lay between each appearance of the camera.
But the snapshots of a life shared over fifteen-plus years of marriage and eleven-plus years of child-rearing can’t help but draw us closer as we watch together, laugh together and tear-up together.
And I think of the home movies we have of my grandparents from the 1930s and the super-8 film reels of me as a child, and I wonder if these latest video records will survive to some future generation and be for some grandchild or great-grandchild of mine a glimpse into an already distant-seeming past.