Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sweet Preserves

The last day of my 39th year was a swirl of melancholy, anticipation and excitement.   I was at home with my family.  "Home" means with my parents not in the place I live with my own little family.  My brother and his crew live close, so all 12 of us were together off and on all day.  At one point during the day, Mom pulled out old video tapes and we cuddled on the couch to giggle, cry and reminisce.   It was just the two of us, which is a rarity when I visit.  Some kids were outside, some were watching TV and some where fishing with Dad.  We saw loved one who had passed years ago.  We saw friends we haven't seen since.  We saw younger versions of ourselves and marveled at the speediness and wild abandonment of the hands of time.  

One  video was a tape that I had made for Mom and Dad years ago of our 8mm film so we could watch it on the VCR.  The video transfer preserved the raw scratchiness of the film and the silence made me focus on the images more deeply.  Although I have seen these tapes before, they meant so much more to me.  It's been at least 15 years since we've seen them, because I know I haven't made my husband watch them.  I got to see my parents in action in their twenties:  Mom bathing and powdering my baby body; Dad bouncing me on his knee and stealing sweet kisses from my neck.  Being a parent myself gave these images a connective feeling:  I knew how it felt to hold and love your own child, so I could appreciate the emotions more than just the picture.  Other scenes were mainly of my brother and me in various stages of play, celebration, and interaction.  One moment sticks in my mind of my brother not quite 4 and me not quite 1.  I wasn't walking yet...just a ball of baby rolling around on the floor.  Apparently someone was instructing him to pick me up so we could be filmed together.  He tried with all his might to get me and all I could do is flop and roll around.   He finally gave up and stood there alone and smiled while I lay there perfectly content.  This image represents our sibling life together:  he would try to direct me in a certain way, finally give up and let me be as I made my own way.

Watching the cousins play made me nostalgic, even hungry for more childhood memories: swinging on my rope swing, snuggling with my pets, or just taking silly pictures with my brother.  So, I, literally, dug out and dusted off our old slide projector and boxes of slides...all of which were out of order. With great joy, I discovered it still worked.  My brother set up a sheet over the mantle and the kids all got pillows and blankets and gathered to watch our family memories unfold.   The kids marveled at the machine and mentioned more than once that they hoped it didn't blow up.  The hum of the projector and that unmistakable sound of it switching slides were worlds apart from watching a digital slide show on the computer.   What a marvelous way to connect generations! I pointed out a chair that is now in our family room...no longer the avocado green velvet...and a table that is in our living room...no longer the avocado green paint.   A small painted plaque that hung in my grandmother's kitchen is now hanging next to my sink.  A quilt that my great-grandmother made and gave me for my birthday is in my daughter's room.  My kids saw places I lived, pets I had, friends I made and how I grew from year to year just like them.

My walk down memory lane did so much more than help me recall events.  It guided my hand as I pulled the common thread through my birth to present day.  These preserved memories allowed me to see how I learned to love, celebrate, appreciate and live.  And, now, in turn, I teach my children the same.

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