We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
— Shakespeare, The Tempest
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
When Nick was three months old, I purchased a video camera. For the next several years, I used it to record him. First time in a high chair, first solid food, first birthday, and so on. This sort of thing:
My father took eight millimeter movies of our family. He used to show them using a projector he loved. He also showed a few cartoons. My sister still has the old reels in a trunk. I have no memory of it, except for the fleeting image of a beanstalk that, occasionally, I see in dreams. Nobody’s looked at any of it for years and years.
I was pretty obsessive about getting Nick on tape. I had a vision of Nora and me at 80, in bed in an old folks home. We would be watching the videos of Nick that I’d recorded, the images on the screen floating above us. They would bring back the memories in pristine clarity.
Our memories compose us. Some would say they are us. I suppose that’s why I’m always reaching back, trying to connect the dots, tending ghosts. But it’s not just my own ghosts, the ones I loved. It’s all ghosts, any that I can get a purchase on. Apparently, we contain multitudes.
And, of course, this one:
My camera used mini-digital videotape cassettes. I transferred these to a DVD each time I finished one. I have fifteen now. Fifteen DVDs documenting the eight years of Nick’s life so far.
The footage is raw, un-edited. Nora and I occasionally look at one. Nick has never been interested in seeing himself.
Last week, out of the blue, he suddenly became fascinated with the idea of baby Nick. He and I watched the first two hours together. He was spellbound.
“What do you think of yourself at 12 weeks?” I said.
“It’s not me,” he said.
All parents know this to be true. Our children are continually disappearing, to be replaced by newer, older versions. They are histories of the future.
To see that baby boy again was bittersweet, but the real revelation on the screen was me.
Me as a new dad.
I watched myself on the video, watching Nick, listening to him. I was pretty good with him.
That was the revelation.
I worry about my father’s film disintegrating. It’s going to be a project to rescue it. Here’s what e-How says:
Kodak created 8mm film for use by consumers in 1932, and its use peaked through the 1950s. Few people have an 8mm movie projector, and so watching an 8mm film today is difficult.
They go on to suggest purchasing a film editor.
Place the 8mm film into a reel on a hub to the left of the small screen. Turn on the small bulb that illuminates the screen. Thread the film. Turn the crank.
My dad had one of those editors. I used to watch him doing the same thing. Now it will be my turn. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Meanwhile, I found the beanstalk. Here it is, the movie I dream:
. . .
You might also enjoy:
The internet time machine. Set a year and away you go. Bet you can’t stop at one.
What a dad blogger learned about himself from an old video. Shocking Truth
And this version of Jack and the Beanstalk (unfortunately, with an ad at the beginning.) Created by a genius, now all but forgotten:
Any thoughts? Maybe you have a ghost story? Express yourself! I’d love you to add your comment below. I always respond here.
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