Home Movies

Our two boys, many years ago.

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.

Our two dogs, also many years ago.

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.

The boys and Mindy on me.

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.

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12 Responses to Home Movies

  1. mirroredImages says:

    Lovely post — lovely images — love you

  2. Priya says:

    It must have been such a fulfilling experience for all in the family, Kevin.

    I’ve noticed that old snapshots have this loving thing about them that warms you up, no matter what. No?

    • Old snapshots and videos do warm you up inside. But they are only reminders of the relationships. It’s the relationships that really make a difference.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. What a wonderful, personal post. I really enjoyed this peek into your world!

    My parents are video-photograph freaks. They recorded everything while my sister and I were growing up, and for years I took it for granted, until I met my husband, who didn’t have a single video of himself as a child. I felt a hole in my heart open up, when I heard that.

    I know it’s silly. It’s just film. But really, it’s more than that. I’ve felt this way all my life. When I was about 7, I started a collection in an envelope I took from my mother’s desk. On the front of the envelope I wrote, in scrawled graphite, “My collection of old and ruined photos.” And inside, I placed all the pictures my parents wanted to throw out. Ones that were faded, or torn, or over-exposed — these are the ones that spoke to me. Pictures show you things you may not have seen, even if you were right there.

    Now as a parent, the digital age makes it so easy to record and snap away, capturing even the silliest and “in-between” moments, which are my favorite.

    Some days I just stand behind my children, or at the side of the room where they don’t focus on me, and record their play. Their laughter. The squeals, and even the fights. And these are the moments I cherish the most. Sure, we have the requisite birthday parties and holidays… but more, we have the everyday moments that really stop the clock. Even though your boys are a bit older, I wonder if you could get away with this? It’s truly precious, what they say and do when they think I’m not looking.

    Well, most of the time it’s precious. At my in-laws’ house over the Thanksgiving holiday, we lost track of our son, only to find him huddled under the dining room table with his 12th cookie of the day. Three times after I’d told him, no more. I’m not sure how many he got away with during the rest of our visit… 🙂 Didn’t get a picture of it, but this moment’s lodged in my memory for sure.

    • It’s funny you mention the silly and “in-between” moments. I like to let the camera run and catch all sorts of things. One of the 30-minute video tapes we watched was filled mostly with people just being themselves…nothing staged…nothing special. I think I even said on the tape “if anybody sits and watches this whole unedited tape they’ll probably be bored stiff.”

      But now, 8 or 9 years later, it’s great to see all that raw video. Even if nothing exciting or unusual is happening, it’s a reminder of what life was like when the kids were little and we were at such a different place in the journey of life.

      I love old photos too. Especially pictures of people I never knew. Every picture tells a story. Sometimes it’s not the pictured moment, but rather our own experience of the picture that matters most.

      I know as we watched the home movies together, my boys’ reactions to their younger selves were just as priceless as the videos on the screen.

  4. bronxboy55 says:

    It’s startling to consider the contrast between what we have today and what was our ability to record events just a few generations ago. In the case of my great-grandparents, and for many of their contemporaries, a single fuzzy picture is all we have to tell their story. Today, we can capture and store any and every moment of a person’s life — and as we have seen, that can be either a blessing or a curse.

    Your sons are fortunate to have such caring and attentive parents, and they will no doubt be enjoying those images of themselves for the rest of their lives.

    Great post, Kevin.

    • Thanks, Charles. It is interesting to think how the preservation of memories will change the future’s perception of the present. I often wonder what people will think about our time period. I wonder if they’ll have a better grasp of it than we have of our past. In the end, it might be that their perspective on our present will be as distorted as our understanding of our past (if in different ways).

      Happy New Year!

  5. Hi Kevin, I awarded you the Candle Lighter award! 🙂 http://wp.me/p1jBAi-yc

  6. Some of my fondest childhood memories are shaped by the video recordings of them. Retrospect does wonders to recollection. Regardless, having those priceless moments so attainable is a wonderful thing.

    The time my mom rented a video camera to film a birthday party but then kept it and filmed the following day (a random summer day in the life of my siblings and I) will always stand out as the most remarkable; especially those moments where we got bored with the filming, stopped hamming it up for the camera, and just went about being kids.

    • Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your reading and having something to say.

      I read your post “Beard and Boy: A Short Story about Success.” I loved the line: “Beards demand reverence and respect. People take you serious when you have a beard and I wanted to be taken seriously.”

      I grew a beard when I was a sophomore in college (twenty years ago now). At the time, I think it was mostly laziness (unfortunately it was so long ago, I can’t really remember). It didn’t occur to me that beards elicited reverence and respect. Although I do remember several of my friends becoming very envious of my beard (I’ve never had a problem growing hair).

      And as I look back over the past twenty years (I’ve only shaved the beard off twice, and only for very short periods of time), I think my beard probably has changed my life. It probably has earned me more respect and reverence than I am due. But, honestly, the main reason I keep it is just so I can avoid shaving daily.

      Have a Happy New Year!

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