February 24, 2003
Video Aftermath

ytd: 132.24

Well ... it was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. (The Christmas Video, I mean: not the beef jerky.)

It was their voices that got to me the most, I think: hearing those sweet, squeaky little voices from ten- and eleven- and twelve-years-ago ... giggling, squabbling, singing, bragging, comparing Christmas gifts, calling each other "Butthead" and "Asswipe" and "QuitItOrI'mTellingMom." That's what undid me, even more than seeing them a decade younger and a couple of feet shorter than they are today. After all, I look at the photo albums and the baby books and the website .jpgs all the time -- I have most of the Early Tothood photos memorized, basically -- so it wasn't a big surprise to see the girls in pigtails or Kyle in his little red suspenders or all three of them cross-legged on the floor, ripping into Christmas presents. What got to me was hearing voices I thought I'd forgotten forever ... and realizing that I haven't forgotten them, after all. They've been right here, all along, in the safety deposit box of my maternal memory banks. I closed my eyes while I was watching the video, and I was almost able to pretend that the voices were coming from the next room ... that if I walked out into the kitchen, right this very minute, all three of them would be standing there, asking me What's for dinner, Mom?

It was opening my eyes and realizing that they weren't in the kitchen -- that I am separated from those little voices by a lot more than mere miles, these days -- that was so tough.

On the other hand ... it was a lot sweeter than I expected it to be. (The Christmas Video, I mean. Not the beef jerky.) I especially enjoyed the unscripted moments: Kacie and Kyle sitting on the living room floor, playing Monopoly ... Jaymi surreptitiously checking her Paula Abdul hair in the living room mirror, when she thinks nobody is looking ... a panoramic shot of my ex-living room, decorated for Christmas 1991 (including my ex-snowman collection, my ex-holiday card display, my ex-Christmas stockings hanging from my ex-stereo cabinet) ... plus a priceless moment when all three of them are sitting on Grandpa's lap, telling him what they want Santa to bring them for Christmas. (Jaymi: bicycle. Kacie: rollerblades. Kyle: Batman IV for his 'Tendo.) I could never get tired of watching this stuff: I just wanted the camera to roll tape forever and ever.

It was definitely a lot smokier than I remembered, by the way. (The Christmas Video, I mean. Not the beef jerky.) All of the adults have cigarettes in their hands in practically every shot ... including *me.* Ugh.

And it was a lot more interesting, from a purely historical standpoint, than I thought it would be. (The Christmas Video, I mean. Not the beef jerky.) I'd forgotten that this video covered so much ground. Basically, my dad stood on the front porch with his camcorder for five Christmas Eves in a row -- from 1991 to 1995 -- and videotaped us arriving at his house ... videotaped us sitting around his living room getting drunk ... videotaped us opening Christmas presents and eating ham sandwiches and picking up mountains of crumpled wrapping paper ... videotaped us hugging everybody goodbye and heading back out the door at the end of the visit. It's interesting to watch the tape, from beginning to end, because you can actually see the way we all change and grow from year to year. I get a little dumpier and grumpier every year. The ex gets a little drunker. Kyle shows up in 1992 sporting a grade school MULLET, forcryingoutloud. And the girls go from roly-poly little dumpling girls to sleek dour pre-women, all in the span of a single ninety-minute tape.

On the down side, it wasn't as filling as I'd hoped it would be. Some years get very short shrift. There is nearly forty minutes' worth of Christmas Eve 1991, for instance ... but practically no 1994 or 1995. It's as though you can actually see my dad's enthusiasm for the project waning, as years go by. Plus there is entirely too much footage of fat insolent cats laying around on armchairs.

It definitely left me wanting more of the Totstuff.

But at least it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Usually I indulge in this sort of thing, even though I know it's probably going to be hard, and it's probably going to hurt, and I'm probably going to be spitting blood and picking gunk out of those iffy back molars of mine for the next two or three days.

The beef jerky, I mean. Not The Christmas Video.



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for the record: santa brought them
everything they asked for that year.