Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reminiscing at the speed of life

Over the years, my earthly father has passed along to me morsels of wisdom and knowledge that only come with life experiences. Things such as the best place to be in a tornado warning is driving around in a car, never take a shower if it's thundering outside, and of course, if you're fishing from the bank and a snake swims by, the fishing trip is over five minutes ago. You can't put a price on that.

A few weeks ago, he who reared me passed along something a bit more tangible but just as priceless. He had come across some old home videos of yours truly and decided to have them put onto DVD.

Now when I say home videos, I'm not talking videocassette. Oh no, it was a bit more primitive than that. As in, when we watched them back, we watched them on this film-projector-like thing. It had a bulb. I clearly remember there was a bulb involved somewhere in the process. Also, I don't think there was any volume. It was kinda like starring in my own Zapruder video.

We hadn't watched these back since I was little. I guess the bulb went out twenty-five or thirty years ago and we just never replaced it, or more likely, they stopped manufacturing it. So I was anxious to see what was on there.

The opening scene has a young Bone, circa six months, in a swing eating some unrecognizable food. Later, there is footage of me rolling over and then what I assume to be some of my first steps, both of which I still consider to be among my top ten accomplishments. I mean, really, what else?

Then a few scenes in, there is my mom. So slender and so strikingly young. And at once, my whole demeanor changed. Inundated by waves of thoughts and emotions coming so fast I can't begin to sort through them. Her hair, long and straight, she's holding me up to pick mulberry leaves. I teared up and I'm not even sure why. Just... she was so young. And where did all those years go?

A couple of scenes later, my dad makes his only appearance. With his seventies hair and butterfly collar shirt, he's lying in the floor beside me mouthing "look at the camera." His mannerisms too much like mine.

The videos basically document my first four years -- birthday parties, a couple of Christmases. There are at least four guitars, both real and toy, placed in front of me on different occasions. Dad has apparently been trying to get me to play the guitar from day one on, until and including the present, as evidenced by the guitar permanently on loan from him mostly collecting dust in my bedroom. The most I ever do is pluck a few times at one, then or now.

Naturally, I had to show the DVD to Mom. She watched with near disbelief as she let two-year-old me hold and lick icing off a big butcher knife, my hand grasping the blade of the knife instead of the handle. And again as I was learning to walk along a sidewalk, mere feet from a street with cars passing by. Later, there's footage of me at probably 3 or 4 playing in the snow, a coat on but no gloves. All that, and I turned out OK!

It is an odd thing to be watching oneself, and you know it is you, but it seems like you're watching somebody else. But that is how it felt.

Still, the DVD is priceless, because if I had ever thought of those home videos, I would have been quite certain that I would never have seen them again.

No further footage exists to prove that I ever walked this Earth. After the Zapruder camera, I'm fairly certain no one in my immediate family owned a video camera until my sister bought one when Nephew Bone came along. So no first swimming lesson, when I cried and never went back. And absolutely no proof I was ever terrified of grasshoppers, as my family alleges.

Along with the feeling that I was watching somebody else, there was a constant and overwhelming sense of the incredible speed at which time and life pass. There was today and thirty-six years ago separated by just a few feet. And yet, such an untraversable distance.

Where did all those years go? And not just the years, but the months and the weeks, the mornings and the evenings, the doctor's appointments and little league games, the school days and the workdays, the summers and the autumns. Is there nothing left to keep, to hold on to, to show to someone that "This was me. This was my life. This was what I did?"

I suppose there are but scattered pictures. And memories, like invisible pages pressed tightly together in some book that looks surely too small to hold all of our days, all that we were and all that we've done. And maybe if we are lucky some day some wind blows open the book to a memory we thought we had long since forgotten.

Though I was supposed to be the centerpiece of these home videos, as I watched them back I found myself focusing more on my parents. They both turn sixty this year -- Mom in October and Dad just last week. I tried to imagine how they must have been back then, not having a whole lot. I thought about how they must have struggled sometimes to get by, and how in the world they knew how to start raising a child when they were fourteen years younger than I am now.

I wonder if they ever look at me today and think back to a little boy with blonde hair and a cheesy grin playing in the snow with no gloves on and ask themselves the same question: Where did all those years go?

"Though it's clear as day in my mind, the picture of a simpler time. Wish change would just leave well enough alone. Those days are gone now, when daddy was a strong man, and momma was a blonde..."


  1. That reminds me that I should transfer Darly's vhs to dvd.

    Thanks for the memories. :D

  2. You can make me laugh and cry at the same time :) This was a wonderful post
    And if there are any comments about how ancient 60 is, I will track down the commenter and make sure they don't live to see it :)

  3. hello Bone~ i think we all ask ourselves where did the time go. time seems to rush so inexplicably fast these days. glad you were able to keep some past memories for yourself. it's good to look back and remember sometimes. my aunt has some old film footage as yours too. i remember watching it with her once. as for grasshoppers... i don't care much for them either. have a great day.

  4. I cried. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

    I think you get your sentimentality from your Dad :)

    wonder if they ever look at me today and think back to a little boy with blonde hair and a cheesy grin playing in the snow with no gloves on and ask themselves the same question: Where did all those years go?

    Oh yeah. No need to wonder: I'm sure they do. How could they not?

    PS: My word verification is skee tc! But TC doesn't ski. But she does enjoy some skeeball.

  5. Great way to start Blogust (even if it technically was posted yesterday). Our movies all have people frowning from the bright light that the movie camera always used. I gather that you are an only child, hence you are all over the movie. I put some of our old movies onto DVD and my younger brother was dismayed at how he doesn't show up until nearly the end and even then, it captures him in a bouncy chair with people walking by, ignoring him. :-)

  6. perfect post starting with the "Reminiscing at the speed of life"

  7. Despite my father's love of the media technology, he never used a video camera to capture moments of my or my sister's childhood. However, my father took TONS of pictures (it's quite possible that I got my love of taking pictures from him) and he recently scanned everything from my childhood on to DVDs.

    My dad is almost 70 and my mom is almost 60 and when I see them now, their images hit me hard because to me, they'll always be the younger versions that I grew up with, not the elderly they are becoming.

  8. Renee - Yes, and now when you watch those back with Darly in twenty years, you can say, "If it hadn't been for Bone's blog post I never would have had these transferred over to DVD." Those will be priceless moments right there :)

    Pia - Thank you. It's not often I am able to have both effects at the same time.

    Oh, I have no doubt about that :)

    Naquility - Hey! Good to see you around. Yes, they say time flies, and I'm a believer.

    TC - Well, I don't know about that. But I definitely didn't get my lack of musical talent from him.

    Skee TC? Is that like See Rock City?

    Murf - Wow! Someone remembered Blogust! Now I guess I'm gonna have to follow through with it. Just consider this post a Blogust Eve kickoff party.

    Not an only child. I have a sister, who I mentioned in the post :) But as she came along seven years later, there is no footage of her.

    Cooper - Perfect post, is that like the perfect cheer?

    Thanks, Miss Cooper.

    Xinh - In my mind, my parents were always stuck at the same age for twenty or twenty-five years. Then one day, they weren't.

    On a similar note, I still see myself as being 23.

  9. The first time I saw my parents as getting old was looking at pictures from when I was young. You are right about the feeling of how quickly time passes us by.

  10. Have you asked your parents how they knew to rear a child? They'll probably tell you they were faking it--most great ventures in life are faked
    Like TC I cried. Like Cooper I thought this a perfect post
    I understand looking back through the lenses of time but in our hearts we're eternally in our 30's so treasure it
    And never talk about frail elderly 60 year olds because only sick people are frail and elderly at 60 or even 70 these days
    I'm having a very hard time psychologically adjusting to this age. Don't look any different than I did two weeks ago; feel better but....I lost five pounds out of sheer fear of aging rapidly. Should keep on happening :)

  11. loved this- mostly because you cherish your parents as much as they cherish you.

    The thing about having a "mini" me is that she is no longer a little child, and it is both odd and fun that we are such mirrors of eachother. we will always remember this time when even my neighbors that come to visit mistake us for the other.

    Your kid is going to blessed to have a dad that knows how to love. One day you will have your own "Mini" Bone!

  12. Oops. So you did mention her. Looks like I was caught skimming. :-)

    A mini Bone?!? Crazy thought.

  13. priceless.

    It is a reminder that I need to get busy getting hard copies of ALL of our digital pics.

  14. Ed - Mine were frozen in time in my mind for a long while. I wonder if that is some sort of subconscious defense mechanism.

    Pia - I imagine there is a bit of faking it, just sorta learning as you go.

    So are you saying I will always feel 23? I can handle that :)

    Daily Panic - Thanks, DP. Well, from the times I've caught myself doing or saying something like my dad, I can see how that would be odd :)

    Murf - I know, right? But if that does happen, I already have a perfect name picked out for him/her:


    Kontan - It was a pretty priceless gift.

  15. Murf: Did you miss the adorable Nephew Bone posts, too? :)

    Btw, any chance you could YouTube this for the Blogosphere to see?

  16. About the time I was 3, and Kennedy was elected president and my sister was barely walking, my grandparents gave my father a movie camera for Christmas... the Super 8! Every Christmas for the next 10 years, there are "Nuclear Dawn" movies. The lights were so bright that we'd be rushed into the living room and blinded by the light (this was before the song by the same name came out). Anyway, if I keep it up, I'll have a full post here, so I'll close saying that I feel your pain... Good post, Bone, thanks for bringing back memories.

  17. This is a beautiful post.

    Sometimes I wonder if we're not going to go full circle with all this. Which is to say, now that everything is digital, it won't take much for us to lose everything. There will be a generation in the middle where photographs were still printed and films were recorded on VHS, but I wonder if there will come a generation with as little record of them as there used to be.