When I launched this blog back on September 13th I was a few weeks into an exercise regime that was the beginning of a lifestyle change for the better. Adding the daily writing enhanced that change and has made it even easier to head to my basement to work out on my elliptical machine. I am fortunate to have an old television set and VCR down there to keep me company. I have always enjoyed watching family home movies, the family I created as well as the original family I belonged. Having been insistent throughout my life that major moments be videotaped, I have enjoyed the last three months of weekdays workouts viewing archived Christmases and other special family occasions. Although I've yet to run out of tapes to watch, I stumbled upon some truly vintage home movies from the late 1970s that places me at a very tender age. Watching these tapes has given me a new perspective on family dynamics and the importance of capturing these times .
My father was the first man in the neighborhood to own a video camera in 1978. He researched his purchase, saved for it, and invested in the best he could afford. He knew that capturing the images of his young family on tape would be a terrific gift. We, my brothers, parents and I, were all *hams* in one way or another. We yucked it up for the camera, trying to garner a laugh, become a star in some way. Only when the camera was left rolling long enough did our true personalities shine through because we would forget the camera was running. At first every moment of our lives was seemingly documented - from family mini-vacations to the evening television repast. Eventually the tapings dwindled down to an occasional birthday celebration and a few scattered Christmases. I used to beg to watch these tapes, but I was usually the only one who was interested in the show. After 1984 the camera laid quiet for some time until I urged my father to dig it out for Thanksgiving 1991. You see, by then I was in college and away from home for the first time. I knew I was missing a family dinner with relatives I did not see often but were dear to me. I begged my dad to dust off the camera and video tape the evening like I was there watching and listening to everything. To my surprise and delight my father did just that! This brought the camera out of retirement and Christmas of 1991 was also documented on film. It would take a few more years, but eventually I got custody of the video camera and religiously taped Christmas. There are now more modern cameras, smaller tapes, and larger families, but a video camera is ever-present at our Christmas morning celebrations.
Along with the video camera I also was given all of the old family videotapes from 1978 and up. Much of the tapes are filled with hours of endless experimentation, my father's car collection, a train ride through the Pennsylvania countryside, and endless summer days spent on a lake in the Berkshires of my brothers and cousins waterskiing. But the parts of the tapes I watch tirelessly are the Christmas celebrations, not because of the gifts, but because of the perpetually young faces staring at the camera. I see my six year old babbling self, a gawky eleven year old brother who was a rapidly growing bean pole, and a fifteen year old brother trying to find himself. I see my parents at an age that is (gasp!!) younger than I am now, their hair dark with no signs of gray (of course, my mother looks the same today!), their skin much paler than the Florida glow they sport year round. And, the best part of the tapes, I see my maternal grandmother, elegant and coiffed, risen far too early on a cold New Jersey Christmas morning, smiling and soaking up the joy in her grandchildren. I watch the dynamics between she and my mother. As the Christmases captured saw the children age, I noticed how, in my pre-teenness I was not nearly as cute or sweet. I hate those scenes. I wish I could make that young woman see that you don't get a second chance at life - I would tell her to always speak with respect, to appreciate every moment, and to value the time you have with loved ones. Thankfully that smart-mouthed young woman figured most of that out before my grandmother passed in 1991, a few months before the Thanksgiving was videotaped. I had forged a rich and loving relationship with my grandmother that lasted until her passing... and continues today.
Now I tape the Christmases so my children can watch the family dynamics of their family. We've been so lucky to have both sets of grandparents with us most years. I feel so delighted knowing that I am capturing hugs and kisses, laughter and stories on our tapes so my children can one day look back to see not just themselves in their youth, but from who they came. As I've been the Keeper of the Thanksgiving Plates, I am also the Keeper of The Memories. I find there is nothing more precious to leave the next generation than movies of the older ones in joyous times.
I wax nostalgic with the approaching Thanksgiving holiday. I wish for all my family and friends to be surrounded by love when they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. I send hopes for making wonderful memories and a wish that some of those memories are archived so they can be witnessed for generations to come. I am forever grateful to my father for the foresight he had when he bought that video camera and to my husband for continuing the tradition in our family. Cheers to all of you who are the Keeper of The Memories in your families!