When’s the last time you busted out old home videos? In the age of YouTube and the televising of the revolution, you might imagine this would be a pretty frequent activity for most.
In my house, it’s never.
That is up until a few nights ago, when in the throes of putting together our son’s Bar Mitzvah montage, we pulled out ye olde video recordings. This was on the heels of flipping through mountains of photographs, which was a masochistic activity in and of itself. All those baby pictures and toddler pictures and damn it, shots of me without one wrinkle and a wide-eyed expression that at once says, “sleep deprived” and “still an ingénue.” A decade later, and the only wide-eyed moments I have are when I break out the toothpicks to keep awake long enough to see this week’s episode of Homeland.
But videos are different, as they bring the past to life in sharp relief. For an hour straight, my family sat mesmerized as we relived my daughter taking her first steps. It started with her just standing, and ended with her toddling from her three-year-old brother to me. Each time she ping-ponged across the room, her steps were a little less wobbly, a little less like an accidental prat fall and more like real walking.
The close-up shots of the kids babbling at the camera, though, were what really got me. Although those tiny voices sounded familiar, I realized that I had no clear memory of most of what we watched. I could recall my daughter’s red onsie (a favorite), but had no explanation as to why she was wearing just one shoe. Nor could I remember the “turn the camera ’round,” chant my son did non-stop to get my husband to turn the viewer around so he could see himself. And what the hell would possess me to wear crew socks with baggy shorts, like DJ’s reject friend Kimmy from Full House? It was the early aughts, damnit! Not so long ago, but why have I lost my long term memory? Of the things that I most want to remember? (Not the crew socks, clearly.)
As I struggled to keep from tearing up, I glanced over at my husband and saw his eyes looked wet, too. (“Allergies, Trud – ALLERGIES.”) Before I could totally bust up, the video ended, and I was relieved to ditch to the kitchen to make dinner. As I started pulling stuff out of the fridge, I heard a loud cough and a strangled sob, and turned around to see my fully distraught daughter. She is just 11, but about my height (5′ 7″) with a size 10 women’s shoe. I can’t exactly scoop her up in my arms anymore, but I did my best to simulate a soothing swaddle.
She didn’t really have to tell me what was eating her, as we’d all experienced the emotional trip down memory lane together. Plus things in 6th grade haven’t been so easy, and more than once she’s told me that growing up is getting her down. Unfortunately, letting her know that middle school was the lowest point of my life too doesn’t seem to help. Apparently my tales of rejection and woe, not to mention the stigma of my Billy Dee Williams mustache that was the signature look of my early teens, only serve to make her nauseous. But when I see her zone out to idiot reality shows after school, I always give her a minute — I remember the only thing that made me feel better way back when was General Hospital. My world always felt a little more right when someone else (Laura) was being brutalized (Luke, I still love/hate you!) Lucky for our kids, they’ll always have E! Entertainment News and the latest on Rihanna and Chris Brown’s reunion to make them all feel better about themselves.
Just as I know that watching the carefree, easy days of her youth made my daughter yearn for a simpler time free of peer drama and pre-algebra, the home videos also made me pine for my younger self. Despite some truly reprehensible style choices, back then I had some very sweet years ahead where the most complicated decisions involved what kind of car seat to buy — not what car am I going to buy now that will be the best choice for my son to get behind the wheel of in the not-so-distant future.
Before I got too far ahead of myself, though, I took a minute to get back in the moment. Later that evening after dinner, as I helped my son put finishing touches on some campaign badges for his run for student government, I got into a Zen groove and realized that my world today, where my kids still need and want my help with projects, can’t transport themselves from one place to the next, and still like me to tuck them in at night, will someday be a distant memory.
So if you see me doffing a straw hat and doing a little soft shoe, just know I’m shuffling off the past, tapping into the present, and taking a bow to the future. Today truly is the first day of the rest of your life AND, yes,it is a good old day.