Unwatched home videos taunt him from the hall closet

Real Life

True Tales From Everyday Living

December 30, 2007|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun reporter

This is a true story. Only the pronouns have been changed to protect the emotionally challenged.

In the days before all this quick-draw photography, humans (circa 1980s) relied on only one piece of technology to record life with child: the analog camcorder. And, in many homes, the cute-as-a-bug, analog Sony Camcorder nosed itself into every occasion:

The blessed moment during labor when Lamaze was thrown out of the hospital window, the nurse weighing your newborn, the wheelchair ride to the hospital parking lot, every birthday, every holiday (except Flag Day), first haircut, first avalanche of Fisher-Price toys, first solid food, first solid food hurled to kitchen floor -- and images of Mom and Dad, hollow-eyed and sleepwalking through those first years. Oh, how you longed to have time to shower or brush your teeth.

Life for new parents was its own reality show, which the shoulder-held camcorder exhaustively recorded. Any moment occurring in nature would be stopped until RECORD could be activated. STOP. Don't open that Christmas present just yet. Dad needs to hit RECORD. Cues were created and rigidly enforced. Unlike the mobile TV studio your dad needed to create his 33mm Bell & Howell home movies, the camcorder invention made it easier for anyone to make and direct home movies. And won't it be wonderful to gather the gang around years later to watch your home movies? Let the memories begin!


Turns out all those moving pictures can be too moving to watch.

Fifteen years after the Camcorder Years, a presidential library of videocassettes remains boxed up in your hall closet. So conveniently labeled and dated. No vinegar smell to suggest film deterioration -- the scourge of your parents' home movies. These cassettes are indestructible. But you can't watch yet. You haven't watched yet. There hasn't been a Sunday afternoon when, during an outbreak of nostalgia, someone in your home says, "Hey, let's make a whole bunch of popcorn and break out the home movies Vol. 1-8!"

So, why not? Given you don't have the benefit of psychoanalysis (so much more time-consuming than writing a column), you'll have to muscle through this on your own. We have our theories and as always, they wade in the murky waters of human nature and over-writing.

Theory No. 1: Father and Mother Time.

Life has not let up. Each year, getting the family holiday photo alone feels like an insurmountable deadline. On the other days, the Netflix movies pile up. Who has the leisure time to watch an hour or two of painfully unedited home movies? Nothing but the director's cut.

Theory No. 2: True Cliches.

Are you afraid you will hit some wall of sadness seeing how quickly your children have grown? That was the point of the whole starting-a-family thing. Leave the nest and all that jazz. If parents need proof of fleeting childhood, look no further than a camcorder's career of camerawork. Photographs are easier to stomach, but it takes guts to watch home movies, especially if your children are out on their own.

(Whose idea was it back then to record every single moment anyway? Sure, you can blame your spouse, but what does that get you? Or not get you.)

Theory No. 3: Vanity.

Maybe it's not the kids you are reluctant to see aging and changing on film. Maybe it's hard to see how you have aged. You're not a young parent anymore.

Your hair is a radically different color; the waistline (never a friend) has since inched out; and those Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses from the 1980s are incriminating. What, were you Don Henley from the Eagles? But your shorts were way too short and your athletic socks were worn hideously high on the leg. It's all captured on timeless cassette, which can be conveniently converted to DVD. Not yet it can.

If the reason for embargoing home movies was only vanity, then that would be a shallow excuse. Something else is at work.

It's just a theory, but maybe it's time to let yourself grow up, too.


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