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..."